Friday, May 18, 2007

Brush fire near Bellevue burns 15 acres

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue Fire Chief Greg Beaver, left, transfers water with Wood River Fire and Rescue Lt. Mike Huntsman, center, at the scene of the fire Wednesday. In the background is Wood River firefighter Tom Fitch. Photo by David N. Seelig

Every fire agency in the Wood River Valley responded to a call for a brush fire burning south of Bellevue near Glendale Road on Wednesday afternoon.

Wood River Fire Chief Bart Lassman said a total of nine engines and three water tenders from area agencies pumped about 6,000 gallons of water to halt the blaze, which burned 15 acres along Alyson Road. The fire charred property owned by Dan Brown, adjacent to a ranch owned by Pete Van Der Meulen and close to Webb Lanscaping.

"It was in very tall grass and sagebrush," Lassman said.

Lassman said the cause of the fire is so far undetermined. An investigator with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was on the scene yesterday to help piece together clues.

"We didn't find anything obvious," Lassman said. "It may have started off-road. We believe it was probably somebody driving up there. When catalytic converters or exhaust pipes come into contact with the grass they ignite the fire."

Lassman said it is crucial for motorists to stay on roads, given the dry conditions that exist.

"We are reminding people that conditions are as dry as they were last fall," he said. "Things look green but there is no moisture in the vegetation."

Firefighters from Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue and Wood River, as well as crews from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, responded to the dispatch call, which came in at 3:38 p.m. Lassman said the fire was contained at 5:34 p.m. and declared out at 7:41 p.m.

Lassman said the absence of heavy winds was a big advantage for the firefighters, given that Helitack, the federal helicopter-based fire-fighting crew, is not in operation until June 1.

"My heart was racing because air attack is not up and running," he said. "With heavier winds this fire would have been up on the hillside and pretty tough to catch."

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