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For the week of August 23 through 29, 2000

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Air and ground crews worked for over seven hours Tuesday afternoon and evening to douse flames on a 300-acre fire near Timmerman Junction. The Bureau of Land Management suspects the fire was the work of an arsonist. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Arson suspected in Timmerman fire

Express Staff Writer

A brush fire that consumed 300 acres of grass and sagebrush near Timmerman Junction Tuesday afternoon and evening is believed to have been the work of an arsonist.

The fire was started using an undisclosed "device," Monte White, a Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officer said yesterday.

Two other fires set in sagebrush and grass around Timmerman Hill in the past 10 days are believed to be arson-caused as well, White said.

On Aug. 14, two wildfires were reported, one near Stanton Crossing on Highway 20, and the other, on the same day, on the east side of Magic Reservoir.

The same person or persons are believed to have set the three fires, according to BLM south central fire manager Andy Payne.

All three fires are out.

Similar ignition devices were found at all three fire sites, Payne said in an interview yesterday from his Shoshone office.

White said he knew immediately that the Timmerman Junction fire was arson-caused because there hadn’t been any lightning strikes in the area on Tuesday.

The BLM monitors weather and lightning strikes, he said.

"The fire was caused by arson," a BLM press release also stated.

"I knew it was a human start as soon as I heard [about] it," White said in a telephone interview from the BLM Shoshone office. "I found what I believe caused the fire."

White and two other arson investigators are responsible for the BLM’s Upper Snake River District, a vast area from Mountain Home to Salmon.

Typically, in an arson case, law enforcement agencies won’t immediately disclose a suspected arson device during the course of their investigation.

The Timmerman Hill fire started shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday and quickly grew to 15 acres by 5 p.m. Firefighters from Wood River Fire and Rescue, Carey, the BLM and the Forest Service contained the blaze by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Both air and ground crews put out the blaze.

The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is involved in the arson investigation in conjunction with the BLM, although BLM law enforcement is taking the lead, Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said yesterday.

Though no structures or homes were consumed by the fire, that was a possible outcome. There are several ranches between Highway 75 and Picabo, south of Highway 20.

Payne said efforts to patrol the Timmerman Hill area will be accelerated in response to the alleged arson-started fire.

The BLM’s White added that arson-caused wildfires aren’t only happening in his district this summer.

"We have a number of arson cases throughout the state," he said.

The BLM is offering a $1,500 reward for any information leading to the arrest of a suspect.


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