Weekend fires keep crews busy

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Thick black smoke and flames were visible from the freeway Sunday as this structure on Lees Ferry Avenue in Desert Springs burned. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

Local fire departments stayed busy this weekend, as crews from the Virgin and Moapa Valleys responded to multiple blazes.

Friday afternoon, around 4:45 p.m., Bunkerville and Mesquite responded to a brush fire near the Sunroc Cement plant off of Riverside Road. Just an hour later, multiple calls began flooding the Mesquite Dispatch Center for several fires burning along the Virgin River, just north of the Bunkerville Fire Station and the community park.

According to Clark County Assistant Fire Chief Larry Haydu, water tenders and engines were requested from Logandale and Moapa as well as the BLM, who responded with three engines, an all-terrain vehicle and a single engine air tanker, which dropped fire retardant on the area several times. Haydu assumed command of the scene, which was eventually released around midnight. As with the other fires in Bunkerville, these two are still under investigation.

Not much was left from the structure that burned Sunday, other than shells of vehicles and tires that were left after the fire. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

On Sunday, crews from Bunkerville, Mesquite and BLM assisted Beaver Dam Fire on a structure fire on Lees Ferry Avenue in Desert Springs, where they found a garage or carport fully engulfed in flames, sending off a black plume of smoke.

Friday night’s fire at the Virgin River near Bunkerville sent smoke throughout Mesquite for several hours. Because of the location of the fire, and the inability to effectively access it, the BLM utilized its aircraft tanker and dropped several loads of fire retardant to maintain containment. Photo by Stephanie Clark.

The cause, according to initial reports from Deputy Chief Andre Ojeda, the residents of the property were cutting metal or welding at the time the fire was ignited.

“We cannot stress enough how important it is that people pay attention to what is going on around them,” said Ojeda. “Keep a hose or fire extinguisher close by if you know you are dealing with something that could cause a fire. It’s that simple.”

Ojeda had just returned two hours before the fire from working the Brian Head fire in Utah, where Beaver Dam Fire Chief Jeff Hunt is still working. While that fire is also under investigation, the BLM website has deemed it human caused, and some sources believe it was similar to two other fires experienced in Beaver Dam last month, where property owners were burning brush around their house and the fire got out of hand.

“This is definitely a dangerous year for fires,” said Ojeda. “We need to stop and think about what we are doing before we do it and make sure that this doesn’t keep happening. We have been fortunate that no lives have been lost, but look at how many people have lost their homes because of someone else’s carelessness.”

 

Comments

  1. Sonny Graham says:

    Deputy Chief Andre Ojeda said it, “this is definitely a dangerous year for fires.”

    So why in the hell is he, and the Fire Chief two hours away in Brian Head?! We don’t have enough personnel as it is, and luckily there hasn’t been a major emergency here!

    Obviously it makes sense to help our neighbors (Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa Valley) and we certainly appreciate their help, but fighting up at Brian Head? Where is the common sense there?? Would Jeff Hunt or Andre Ojeda please explain this to me, and other tax payers of Beaver Dam/Littlefield/Scenic?

    As Andre said, “we need to stop and think about what we are doing before we do it…” that also goes for BDLFFD personnel – there is more than 1700 others fighting the 66,768 acre Brian Head Fire (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5253/). Fireworks plus dry grass and a dash of careless individuals = one hell of a fight. My neighbors and I have experienced that scare a few times over the years.

    • Stephanie Clark says:

      Sonny,
      Ojeda and Hunt are a part of the Wildland crew that fight the national fires. Being on this crew helps bring in more grants and resources for the area, that the tax payers cannot cover. I will have a more in depth story on that soon, which should answer your question. Bottom line, however, is that not one of the fire departments in this area have enough staff on the clock at any one time to technically enter a burning building, as the national standard is 13 personnel. Thanks.

      • Rena Moerman says:

        Stephanie…Your response may well be accurate but there is much more to the story. Sonny has some very valid concerns. These firefighters first responsibility is to the District who hired them. Wildland firefighting was never intended to replace that responsibility. It was to supplement not replace.

        I have some questions that perhaps you will answer in your article: (All of these questions are for the Beaver Dam / Littlefield District.)

        1. Who determines the minimum acceptable staffing level?
        2. What is the District doing to recruit personnel?
        3 Who determines what resources are allocated to wildland fires? Is it a firefighting crew with equipment or EMTs with less equipment?
        4. How is the District reimbursed for equipment?
        5. Does the District get any reimbursement for the firefighters who are out of the District?
        6. If not, how are the firefighters paid? If they are paid employees, are they paid by both the District and the Feds?
        7. How is response time impacted?
        8. Who is left in charge when the two top staff members are gone?
        9. How many volunteers does the District have available to respond?

        I would be very upset if my home burnt and I found out that the District was short staffed because we had firefighters out of the District fighting wildland fires especially on fires with more than 1,500 other firefighters. Does the District truly believe that the grants and resources received from fighting wildland fires is worth the cost and potential liability of losing even one home or one life while being short staffed? If so, I would be interested in know just how much in grants and resources does the District receive. The two top staff members — the two responsible for the running of the District — were both on the fire.

        Stephanie, your own articles show that this is prime high fire season. Beaver Dam / Littlefield Fire District is a busy District. Think about all of the recent house fires(2 in Desert Springs, 1 in Scenic and 1 in Beaver Dam) not to mention the times the District has responded to fires in Mesquite and Bunkerville and all of the emergency calls from I-15. This District needs a full staff simply to respond to what is occurring here.

        I know the District recently let a paid firefighter go. I would think the District would at least replace him before sending the two remaining paid (top staff) firefighters for such a long time on a wildland fire. I have always been a supporter of the Fire District…I still am. BUT, I think their recent decisions are leaving us vulnerable and it makes me extremely nervous.

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