Combine-sparked second fire burns wheat, stubble

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that burned more than 12,000 acres of rangeland near Kahlotus, Wash., early this week.

"It's suspicious, so it's under investigation," Scott Moore, chief of the Franklin County Fire Protection District No. 2, told the Capital Press.

The fire started along the Snake River below the Lyon's Ferry area at about 8 a.m. Aug. 14. It took 12 hours for crews to get it under control, Moore said.

"We had a rough terrain to fight," he said. "Rocky, steep, soft terrain. We had to try to catch it on the ridges."

A wind out of the northeast blew at 15 to 20 mph, Moore said. The fire burned into some land that lay dormant under the Conservation Reserve Program and gained more fuel, reaching Devil's Canyon and Lower Monumental Dam, he said.

"The wind and the terrain made it difficult to control," Moore said. "When fire goes down into a canyon, it seems to go down slow and comes up out of a canyon twice as fast. It draws energy."

There were minor injuries due to smoke and a firefighter who grabbed something hot and sustained minor burns, Moore said.

The district received assistance from fire crews from Connell, Basin City, Washtucna, Lind and Pasco Fire District No. 3. Moore estimated that more than 40 grass trucks and 10 tankers responded, and about 60 to 70 firefighters.

At the same time, a wire short in a combine led to a second fire that burned about 3 acres of standing wheat and 27 acres of stubble. That fire took place at 1 p.m. about 10 miles away, and crews contained it quickly.

"We were damn busy that day," Moore said.

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