Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Brushfire singes East Magic

Express Staff Writer

A BLM wildfire engine helps extinguish a blaze at East Magic Resort on Friday. Photo by Pat Norris

Six vacation cabins at Eastside Magic narrowly escaped incineration when a brushfire erupted there early Friday morning.

Wood River Fire and Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said his office received a call at 3:29 a.m. about a fire burning on a hillside behind the cabins, which are on the east side of Magic Reservoir, south of U.S. Highway 20 on the Big Wood River.

"The homeowners did a pretty good job of fighting the fire until we got there," Lassman said. "(But) had we not arrived, it probably would have destroyed those structures."

Lassman said the fire burned about 3 acres of grass and sagebrush before it was contained at 5:16 a.m. He said there were no injuries among either residents or the approximately 45 firefighters who responded.

However, Lassman said the fire did destroy an aluminum Weldcraft tournament fishing boat, worth about $20,000, on a trailer near one of the cabins, and an antique sheep herding wagon.

Bryan Barney, cause determination specialist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Twin Falls District, said he had not determined a definitive cause for the blaze but has listed it as lightning caused. Barney said he had found no evidence of a lightning strike at the scene, but lightning had been reported in the area shortly before the fire began. He said there were also reports of fireworks being set off in the vicinity, but he had found no evidence of them either.

Ray Berard, an Eastside Magic resident who reported the fire, said he had just stepped out his door and saw "an orange glow and smoke."

Berard said residents sprayed the fire with garden hoses and fire extinguishers for about half an hour before firefighters arrived.

"I think it would have gone all the way if we hadn't been there," he said.

Lassman said machinery sent by Wood River Fire and Rescue consisted of an engine with compressed-air foam, a smaller wildfire engine, a water tanker and an ambulance. He said the BLM and the Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue departments also sent wildfire engines. Lassman said aid also arrived from West Magic and from the U.S. Forest Service in Fairfield.

"Our ingress could very easily have been blocked if the fire had been a little larger," he said.

Lassman said residents were also fortunate that there was virtually no wind that morning. Even a light breeze, he said, could have fanned the flames into the buildings before firefighters arrived.

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