Friday, June 23, 2006

Fires pop up in north, south valley


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

Despite a wet winter and spring, fire season has arrived to Central Idaho on schedule.

Several incidents throughout the Wood River Valley in the past week have reinforced the point.

Wood River Fire and Rescue crews responded to several wildland fires on Broadford Road Wednesday, June 21.

"We had multiple fires, some big and some small," said Bart Lassman, Wood River Fire and Rescue chief.

The department was dispatched at roughly 12:30 p.m. to Broadford Road, south of Star Bridge in a three-acre public parcel of land providing access to the Big Wood River.

An area smaller than one acre in size contained at least 12 separate fires.

Lassman indicated the area contains a high density of cottonwood seed and cottonwood trees, which fueled the spotty fires.

The Hailey Fire Department assisted, and a total of 30 firefighters controlled the flames inside a half-hour. The investigation is complete, but the cause of the fires was not determined.

On Tuesday, June 20, the Ketchum Fire Department and government fire crews responded to an unrelated wildland fire about 20 miles north of the city.

The fire occurred at about 3 p.m. near the historic Russian John Guard Station on state Highway 75.

Ketchum Interim Fire Chief Mike Elle said a downed power line ignited the blaze. Flames as high as 2 feet spread to nearby trees, consuming a quarter of an acre.

Finally, a smoking bus on Ketchum's Main Street initiated a false sense of alarm on Friday, June 23.

Elle said the brakes on a Sun Valley Express bus were dragging and caused the vehicle to smoke. The Ketchum Fire Department cooled the smoking brakes, and the vehicle was towed from the scene.

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Fire extinguisher class offered

As the Fourth of July approaches, the Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments are reminding people to be careful with fireworks, matches and campfires.

The grass is growing high, and it doesn't take long for it to dry out, said Tom McLean, the Fire Department's senior lieutenant paramedic.

What's more, fluffy cottonwood seeds are flying and drifting in abundance right now. Cottonwood "has an incredible ignition rate," McLean said.

For those reasons, combined with the Fourth of July fireworks season, the Ketchum Fire Department is offering a fire extinguisher training class on Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2. The classes begin at 10 a.m. and are free.

"The most important thing with an extinguisher is not to panic when you go to use it," said Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes. "Take a look at the instructions. Make sure it's pointing the right direction, that it's full and ready to use—and that you pull the pin on it."

Carnes said fires tend to double in size every 30 seconds they are burning. Therefore, every little thing someone can do before the fire department arrives could prove crucial.

"Handled properly, extinguishers work wonderfully," Carnes said. "I've held back an entire garage fire with a 20-pound extinguisher waiting for an engine to show up."




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