Friday, July 6, 2012

Fireworks spark flames in Hailey

Sunnyside Apartments, Buckhorn Drive see blazes

Express Staff Writer

Crews respond to a wildfire on Broadford Road near Hailey on Tuesday night, a fire that officials say was started by incorrectly extinguished cigarettes. Photo by David N. Seelig

Illegal fireworks caused small fires in Hailey on Wednesday, July 4, that required responses from the Hailey Fire Department.

Hailey Fire Department Chief Mike Chapman said the department responded to one on Buckhorn Drive and one earlier in the day at the Sunnyside Apartments on Willow Drive in Woodside.

"At one point [Wednesday] night, we had every unit out," he said.

Chapman said the Fire Department responded to a blaze at Sunnyside Apartments on Wednesday afternoon after a resident set off illegal fireworks.

The department rolled two engines and two support vehicles, and were able to keep the fire from threatening the nearby apartments.

"At first, visually [there was a threat]," Chapman said. "But once crews were on scene, there was very little wind. Sunnyside keeps a well-maintained landscape, so there wasn't a real significant threat."

Chapman said the fire on Buckhorn Drive was started after the city's fireworks show by a homeowner with illegal fireworks. The fire was quickly extinguished.

Fireworks-caused fires were slightly down from last year, Chapman said, and Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said his district didn't respond to any such fires in its jurisdiction Wednesday night.

"It didn't seem like we had the quantity we have had in the past years," Chapman said. "People have been pretty good about laying off the fireworks. It's not worth it."

Wood River Fire & Rescue responded to another human-caused fire this week north of Star Bridge on Broadford Road near the spot where a campfire got out of control last month.

Lassman said the fire near Hailey was allegedly caused by a 17-year-old boy and an 18-year-old boy who had been building a fort on private property owned by the Bend of the River Ranch.

"They said that they had some hammers and nails, and they were in the process of building a fort along the river," Lassman said. "They said it caused a spark."

However, Sheriff Gene Ramsey said the two had been smoking and put the cigarettes out with their heels—incompletely, which caused the fire. Ramsey said the case would be passed on to the county prosecutor for further review.

The blaze burned half an acre of cottonwoods, tall grass and brush on the east side of the river, all on private land. A U.S. Forest Service helicopter team dropped 6,000 gallons of water on the flames, assisted by an eight-person hand crew from the U.S. Forest Service, a three-person hand crew from the BLM and 26 firefighters from Wood River Fire & Rescue and the Bellevue Fire Department.

Lassman said the call came out at 5:17 p.m. and crews were on scene until midnight. The area was densely wooded and crews needed to hike into the fire 2,000 yards from the road.

Possible thunderstorms are forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Chapman said he thinks the rainy weather could help fire conditions by wetting down dry grass, though Lassman said he wasn't as sure, especially as the forecast calls for lightning.

"We need about a week of rain," he said. "If it continues to do this light drizzle it will really help, but we need about a week of it."

Kate Wutz:

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