By ROBERT S. MERRILL
It took crews approximately four hours to contain a 550-acre grass fire northeast of Preston Wednesday afternoon that threatened one house.
The fire was definitely human-caused, said Franklin County Fire Marshall Scott Martin.
“We have received reports that someone was moving an old piece of farm machinery along Highway 34 near the KACH Radio Station at 3 p.m. Thursday and that sparks from a dragging chain ignited grass along the highway,” he said. “We have not been able to confirm this and the incident is still under investigation.
“There was a 20-30 mile per hour wind out of the south that pushed the fire along the west side of the highway. Embers cause it to jump the roadway and it burned a small amount of acreage on the east side, before it was stopped.”
Martin said there were no injuries and no structures were burned.
“When the fire jumped the highway, we did have concerns about it moving beyond the Franklin County Landfill and into an area where several residential structures are located in the Glendale area. We called for assistance from Cache County. Forest Service and BLM officials also assisted,” he said.
“We have an interagency fire agreement with Cache County, the Forest Service and BLM and that really helps us all. We had about 20 Forest Service employees with air support from Pocatello. We had fixed wing aircraft, a large air tanker and a helicopter help out. The helicopter pulled water from Foster Reservoir. “We also had several crews from Cache County come and assist. Some 20 Franklin County firefighters responded and approximately 20 from Cache County. Brush trucks from North Logan, Richmond, Trenton, Lewiston, Mendon, Smithfield and others helped. We also had one structure engine from Cache County arrive.”
Martin said the fire burned 20-30 acres of grain, CRP grasses, light brush and sagebrush. No damage estimate has been calculated yet, he said.
“This fire is probably the largest fire to-date that we’ve had in the county so far. It is an excellent reminder to us all just how incredibly dry things are. It only takes a spark to get a fire going and things burn really fast right now.
“Last week we canceled all burn permits in the county and will not issue any new ones because of the extremely dry conditions and potential for fires. This mainly applies to agricultural operations. It does not include building or burning recreational fires.”
“Farmers are in the middle of the grain harvest right now. We are advising them to have fire extinguishers on hand. It would also be a good idea to have a tractor with a disc in the field being harvested just in case a fire starts. This equipment can be used to build a fire break.
“Those recreating in the area also need to remember to use caution when building fires and do so only in cleared areas. Use common sense when using chain saws or welding equipment. Do not park ATVs, vehicles or equipment in areas where there is dry grass. Hot mufflers can ignite a fire.”
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