An investigation into a Tuesday afternoon shed fire in the Mendenhall Valley concluded that a child playing with lighter fluid had accidentally started the fire.
The shed was totally destroyed, but Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel contained the fire from spreading, according to a CCFR social media post.
“We typically get a couple of juvenile related fires each year,” said fire marshal Dan Jager in an email. “They are not usually this involved as they are relatively small in grass areas.”
The fire occurred in a small backyard storage shed, where the boy, once interviewed, admitted to playing with a lighter and lighter fluid, according to the social media post. The boy accidentally started the fire and escaped inside the house, where his mother saw the smoke and immediately called 911, according to the social media post.
“This was a relatively easy fire to extinguish. We had approximately a dozen personnel on scene in a short time,” Jager said. “The other important factor was it was called in to 911 quickly.”
The fire spread to the dry grass around the shed before being extinguished, according to the post. A neighbor was transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital for evaluation, said the social media post, and the structure was insured. No charges were issued at the time.
Dry grass and high winds
However, Jager said, this is one of several fires that caught in the dry grass this week.
“We are responding to our second grass fire in 12 hours. We had a 50 foot by 40 grass area on fire last night by the 8000 block of Glacier highway,” Jager said in an email Thursday morning. “The one we are responding to right now is on Douglas Island near the beach. A resident was doing some open burning and the fire got away and so we are over there to make sure there are no hot spots.”
There are no injuries or damage to structures in either case, Jager said, but residents should be extremely mindful of the dry weather and high winds, both of which can cause fires to rapidly become conflagrations.
“We want to caution residents to avoid any open burning, even if it is in areas that are authorized. Again, the winds play a major role in a small fire becoming a large one very quickly,” Jager said. “With spring time here and nicer weather, the dead grasses and brush are especially dry and susceptible to easily igniting and spreading a fire.”
Dead, dry plant material can rapidly turn into fuel for a fast-moving fire, Jager said.
“The fire service refers to this time of year as “brown up” because of the dead, flashy fuels such as grass that can easily ignite. We can see a reduction in the fire behavior once we have green grass and leaves on trees,” Jager said. “We want residents to use extreme caution and avoid burning if they can. Open burning is a privilege and as such great caution needs to be exercised at all times of year.”