Friday, May 3, 2013

In dry valley, 2 wildfires in a week

Bellevue Triangle blaze started by welder

Express Staff Writer

    Wood River Fire & Rescue crews responded to the second wildfire in less than a week on Tuesday, when a ranch worker south of Bellevue inadvertently caused a small blaze.
    Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said his firefighting crews were called to the Heart Rock Ranch on state Highway 75 at 10:57 a.m. Tuesday when the ranch manager reportedly ignited dry vegetation while repairing a fence.
    “[He] was doing some welding and started a fire,” Lassman said Thursday.
    The fire burned roughly one-quarter of an acre in dry cottonwoods, willows and dry brush before Wood River Fire & Rescue crews extinguished the flames around 11:40 a.m. Lassman said no further assistance was called.
    But further assistance was needed later that day, when a fire flared up in a similar location at about 1:15 p.m. Lassman said that fire was closer to Highway 75 than the first one, and was likely caused by a wind-blown ember that smoldered for several hours.
    “We had winds at 15 to 20 mph down there that were gusting to over 30 mph,” he said. “We believe there was something that got missed and spread into some duff material, which is compacted hay and compost.”

“A rancher is out there and he’s just doing some welding.”
Bart Lassman
Wood River Fire & Rescue chief

    Law enforcement closed Highway 75 in that area for about an hour, and Lassman said the fire burned more than an acre up to the highway and even crossed over before crews got it under control.
    Lassman said the fire was extinguished by 3 p.m., but crews were on scene until about 4 p.m., distributing the “duff” material to ensure there were no lingering embers that might re-ignite. The ranch manager assisted, using a bulldozer to move the material.
    The Bellevue Fire Department and the Hailey Fire Department both sent engines and the Ketchum Rural Fire Department sent a water tender. Lassman said there were 34 total firefighters on scene.
    Lassman said the fire risk had been high that day and the department did not allow any open burning. However, he said, the fire was clearly an accident.
    “A rancher is out there and he’s just doing some welding,” he said. “People need to get their work done.”
    Lassman added that he urges people who might be working with ignition sources or heat sources to do that work in the morning, before winds pick up in the late morning and early afternoon.

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