Timmerman arson case typically tough
Rankin fire near Sunbeam contained
BLM law enforcement official Monte White said the typical
wildland arsonist could be someone who either didnt make the cut for a firefighting
squad or needs money he or she could earn by helping to fight the fire he or she set.
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
An investigation into an intentionally set wildfire at Timmerman Hill has
yielded no leads or suspects, investigators reported yesterday.
Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft were called in to quell the Timmerman Hill blaze, which
threatened nearby ranches on Tuesday of last week. By days end more than 900 acres
burned. Express photo by David N. Seelig
The wildfire, which consumed 900 acres of grass and sagebrush on the
southeast corner of the Timmerman intersection last Tuesday, was almost immediately ruled
an arson case by U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law enforcement officer Monte White.
Finding a suspect is proving difficult, not uncommon in arson
White said he found the device which he believes started the fire. He has
declined to disclose it.
"Were reaching for straws right now," White said in a
telephone conversation from his Shoshone office. "The key will be if anybody sees
White and two other arson investigators are responsible for the BLMs
Upper Snake River District, which covers an area from Mountain Home to Salmon. The Blaine
County Sheriffs Office is helping with the Timmerman Junction investigation, though
Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said the BLM is taking the lead.
The Timmerman fire was one of three recent Snake River Plain fires for
which the causes are likely arson, White said.
He believes the three fires may have been started by the same person or
persons, and if the act is repeated, eyewitnesses could help lead to the capture of the
arsonist or arsonists.
The three arson cases are the only ones in the state this summer,
according to authorities.
"Were really good at finding what started the fires, but
its tough to find a suspect," White said.
In the case of the Timmerman fire, White found a device he said was used
to set the blaze. Similar devices were found at a fire near East Magic on Aug. 14 and at
one the same day near Stanton Crossing on Highway 20, he said.
Typically, in an arson case, law enforcement agencies wont
immediately disclose the details of a suspected arson device during the course of an
According to the BLMs statewide law enforcement chief, Joe Leaf,
there were three fires near Boise earlier this summer attributed to abandoned campfires
and therefore considered arson-set. They were extinguished.
Southern Idahos national forests havent experienced any
suspected arson cases this summer, said Steve Lipus, law enforcement officer for the
Boise, Sawtooth and Payette national forests.
White said the typical wildland arsonist could be someone who either
didnt make the cut for a firefighting squad or needs money he or she could earn by
helping to fight the fire he or she set.
"Sometimes theyll be the first on the scene and want to be
involved. Also, a lot of them are grudge fires," he said.
But more than that, he said, arsonists probably derive some sort of
twisted joy at seeing their work manifested in full-fledged flames.
"I really feel its the excitement of setting big fires,"
A fire in the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church/River of
No Return Wilderness Area consumed 21 of 29 structures at the Pistol Creek Ranch on
Saturday. The ranch is near the confluence of Pistol Creek and the Middle Fork.
According to a Salmon/Challis National Forest press release, those who
were staying at the ranch had been ordered to evacuate the area last week, and no one is
believed to have been in the area when the fire roared through.
Seventeen of the burned structures were seasonal residences, four were
According to the press release, the fire ran approximately six miles
Saturday, crossed the Middle Fork and moved uphill to the east, into the Pistol Creek
drainage. By Sunday, the latest estimate available yesterday, the fire had consumed 52,000
Twelve fires in the wilderness area were still burning yesterday and had
consumed 155,300 acres.
The Rankin Creek Fire near Sunbeam was 100 percent contained by
firefighters at 5 p.m. on Monday, Salmon/Challis fire information officer Dave Killebrew
said in an interview yesterday.
The fire had posed threats to the towns of Sunbeam, Bonanza and Custer and
consumed a total of 6,710 acres, he said.
"The weather was helping out somewhat with the lack of heavy winds we
had earlier," Killebrew said, adding that "we got a little lucky."
The Trail Creek Fire near Atlanta had not moved considerably in the past
week as of yesterday, and fire information officer Maggie Dowd said full containment could
be achieved in the next few days.
The fire has burned 23,900 acres, and the most active front continues to
be on the west. The fire has not advanced on the northeast or southeast fronts and is
completely out near Atlanta.
Dowd said Middle Fork Road, which accesses Atlanta, is still closed,
pending full containment of the fire.
On Sunday, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne extended a state emergency proclamation
for an additional 30 days because of many still-active fires. The initial emergency
proclamation, signed by Kempthorne on July 27, expired Sunday.
"The reports from the fire lines, as well as the weather reports,
tell us that we have at least several more weeks of work before we can hope to get the
upper hand on most of these fires," Kempthorne said in a press release.
Throughout August, the states emergency declaration has allowed
state resources to help federal and local officials fight these fires and provide
assistance to affected communities, Kempthorne said.
"We will definitely need to continue this cooperation and
coordination in September, which is why Im extending the state of emergency for
another 30 days," he said.
In order to draw upon state resources, however, county governments must
have first declared a state of emergency because of wildfire conditions. Once they have
declared an emergency, they can contact the states Bureau of Disaster Services to
obtain additional state assistance.
Blaine County, little affected by wild fires so far this summer, has not
declared a state of emergency.