For the week of July 7, 1999  thru July 13, 1999  

Fire sweeps over Gimlet meadow

This and four other fires blamed on fireworks

Express Staff Writer

l7fire.jpg (15402 bytes)While musician Keb Mo ignited a Trail Creek audience with his fiery blues on Thursday night, a teenager accidentally set fire to a Gimlet meadow.

Stronger winds could have turned the blaze into a disastrous situation, declared Ketchum Fire Chief Tom Johnson.

The fire started in an open area east of Madison Avenue in Gimlet at about 5:45 p.m. after the 16-year-old shot bottle rockets, which are illegal in Idaho, into the dry sage brush. Gimlet is an exclusive riverside subdivision south of Ketchum.

The teen is a resident of one of the homes adjacent to the burned area, according to Ketchum Fire Chief Tom Johnson.

When firefighters from the Ketchum Fire Department arrived at 6 p.m., the teenager was actively trying to put out the fire, Johnson said.

"The fire made headway because of strong winds," Johnson said.

Had the winds been stronger than what they were on Thursday night—15 knots—the fire could have been a lot worse, Johnson said.

It took five hours for some 50 firefighters from the Ketchum, Sun Valley and Wood River fire departments, and from the Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service, to put out the blaze.

Ten pieces of fire-fighting equipment were put into use, including a Forest Service Helitak helicopter.

The helicopter siphoned water from the Big Wood River and dropped it on the fire.

Although the fire was contained on privately owned land, the Forest Service and BLM were called in because of the proximity to public lands.

The fire spread over 16 acres and came within 100 feet of a home.

The teenager, who was "very remorseful," according to Johnson, could be cited for illegal possession of fireworks, a misdemeanor offense.

The Blaine County Sheriff’s office is petitioning Fifth District Court to have that charge filed against the teen, Sheriff Walt Femling said.

"Cost recovery can be pursued, but we have not made a decision yet," Johnson said. The blaze cost an estimated $12,000 to extinguish, according to Johnson.

However, Johnson said he did "not want to be in the business of charging individuals for their mistakes."

The Keb Mo concert, heavy traffic on State Highway 75, and two ambulance calls during the fire challenged firefighters.

"We had great cooperation between all the crews," Johnson said.

On July 4, fire fighters were called out to extinguish four other small fires, probably caused by fireworks. Those occurred at Northridge, north of Hailey; east of Quigley Road, west of Hailey; along state Highway 75 near Zinc Spur; and in a field north of Star Bridge along Broadford Road.

According to Wood River Fire and Rescue assistant chief Jeff Nevins, all those fires were either extinguished by local residents before fire fighters arrived, or by the fire fighters shortly after their arrival.


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