Blaze Rages Near West Richland


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Article I wrote for the Tri-City Herald newspaper.

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Blaze Rages Near West Richland

  1. 1. Tri-City Herald: Local Visit the Tri-City Herald Blaze rages near West Richland homes (w/video and slideshow) This story was published Thursday, June 14th, 2007 By Nathan Isaacs, Herald staff writer Mitch Sladle was on horseback when he first saw the wildfires smoke Wednesday morning. Brian Wilson was at his office in Richland. Lynn Dickinson was at her neighbor Deb Sampsons house. Jodi Rosso was home with her children, Ethan and Natalie. Within minutes they and dozens of their neighbors rushed to protect their rural Benton County homes from a fire that eventually scorched about 700 acres of grass and brush between Harrison and Rupert roads, northwest of West Richland. "We have had a bit of an adventure today," Rosso said. "We saw the smoke coming over the hill. We came out to see what was going on and the next thing we know we saw flames rushing down the hill and the neighbors houses getting very close to being burned." The fire started about 11 a.m. as a rancher was mowing weeds near the pond on the Lewis and Clark Ranch, said Devin Helland, spokesman for the Benton Fire District 1, which was one of several agencies that fought the fire. The fire spread quickly, pushed by strong shifting winds. Within minutes, a thick smoke column could be seen more than 30 miles away. No injuries were reported and no homes were damaged. Helland said more than 110 firefighters from Benton fire districts 1, 2 and 4; Franklin Fire District 3, and the Richland and Kennewick fire departments responded to the blaze. Firefighters from Walla Walla also were brought in to help, and an air tanker stationed in Richland dropped five loads of fire retardant on the blaze. No one was evacuated, but police restricted access to the rural residential area that lies in the southern tip of land bordered by the Yakima River on the east and west, near the Horn Rapids Dam. "The police department and fire department have done a fabulous job getting out here really fast and taking control of the situation," Rosso said. By 4 p.m., Helland said, the fire was 100 percent contained. He said firefighters expected to remain in the area through the night, extinguishing hot spots and flare-ups. He said this was the Mid-Columbias first big natural fire of this years fire season, which is expected to be a high risk fire season. While crews attacked the advancing fire with fire hoses and bulldozers, residents attacked smoldering brush piles and flare-ups near their homes with garden hoses, hoes and shovels. "Im looking for the hot spots and trying to put them out. No real technique," said Michel Freeman, a music producer visiting from Los Angeles who was enlisted to help his friend Wilson. "The cheat-grass is like gasoline -- when the fire hits it, its going to go," said Larry Goodenow, who was watering down a neighbors yard. "You have the fear the fire might get closer." He recalled the Hanford fire of 2000, which was in the same general area as Wednesdays fire, although the earlier one was much larger and more destructive. Sladle said he was riding his horse when he first noticed the smoke. He was among the first to call 911. Other residents also called their neighbors and families to alert them about the fire.1 of 2 7/14/07 2:49 PM
  2. 2. Tri-City Herald: Local "I was told there was a fire behind my house," said Wilson, a physician in Richland. "We drove home as fast as we could." Jim Seitz said his wife Neomi called him and told him "... the place is burning, there is a big fire." More than a dozen residents ran home as flames came within yards of their properties. Dickinson and Sampson carried shovels, tossing dirt on smoldering piles of brush and turning on irrigation sprinklers. Sladle, wearing a bandana over his face to protect him from the smoke, helped carry the fire hose used by Benton Fire District 1 firefighter Regan Hurlbert as he attacked some flames. Rosso and her children carried coolers of water and juice to the others. "Were just helping the neighbors," Dickinson said. "This is a wonderful community." Get the entire Tri-City Herald delivered to you at home - subscribe now. Call 509-586-2138 or 800-750-4967 6 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday 7-12:00 p.m. Saturdays 7-10:30 a.m. Sundays and holidays © 2007 Tri-City Herald, Associated Press & Other Wire Services2 of 2 7/14/07 2:49 PM