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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blaze Destroys Rural Buildings

Blaze Destroys Rural Buildings

BY JOHN BRANTON, Columbian staff writer

Heavy flames sent up a column of black smoke visible from miles away on Wednesday afternoon and destroyed three wooden buildings in a remote rural area east of La Center.

An unidentified volunteer firefighter with Fire District 12 suffered minor burns. No one else was believed injured, officials said.

The blaze at 6103 N.E. 330th St., first reported at 1:15 p.m., spread to trees and brush around the home. Firefighters were able to limit the brush fire to about a quarter-acre, said Battalion Chief Gordon Brooks of Fire District 10.

Halting the spread were about 40 firefighters from districts 10, 11 and 12 and inmates from Larch Corrections Center, working with officials with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Had it occurred during the drier months of August and September, the brush fire might have grown much larger and spread to nearby homes, said Max Konkright, acting battalion chief with District 12.

Konkright was first to arrive, about 15 minutes after someone called 911 to report seeing the smoke column.

At first, it wasn’t clear exactly where the smoke was coming from, or even which fire district it was in, officials said. It turned out to be in the Lockwood Creek area just inside District 10’s boundary.

“I went up the driveway and saw a wall of flames,” Konkright said. “The grade was way too steep to bring any regular fire engines in.”

There was no hydrant in the area; firefighters had to leave their large engines about half a mile away, Brooks said.

The strategy they used involved attaching a hose to a water tender — a truck with a tank holding about 2,500 gallons of water — and dragging the hose up a gravel road and steep gravel driveway toward the blaze.

Several small brush rigs, which are one-ton trucks holding only about 300 or 400 gallons of water, filled up from the hose. Firefighters then drove the brush rigs back and forth, pouring water on the fire and returning to the tender for refills.

Under the circumstances, there was no hope of saving the three wood-frame buildings.

They included a shed, a building variously described as a house or barn, and a building that may have been used to house birds, said Deputy Fire Marshal Richard Martin. The fire’s cause and dollar damage estimate hadn’t been determined.

The 4-acre property belongs to David Lee Booth, according to county records.

With summer approaching, fire officials warn rural residents to clear brush, firewood, tall grass and other flammable material away from their homes.

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