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Grass fire quickly snuffed out

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Park City firefighters snuffed out a small grass fire in Park Meadows on Saturday afternoon, rushing into a backyard as neighbors and other onlookers watched them put down the flames.

The Park City Fire District said the fire appeared to start behind a house at 1589 Little Kate Road, and smoke was visible from numerous vantages along the Park City entryways and in Park Meadows and Prospector at about 3 p.m.

Bob Zanetti, the assistant fire chief, said 15 firefighters were sent to Little Kate Road, and a Summit County fire warden, driving a truck with U.S. Forest Service markings used to fight brush fires, joined the Park City firefighters.

They contained the fire within 25 minutes and spent another two hours putting out hotspots. The site is situated across Little Kate Road from the Racquet Club, and neighbors lined nearby streets watching the firefighters.

Zanetti said the fire did not damage any buildings, but it was within 50 feet of at least two houses.

Mark Billmire, a fire district battalion chief who responded on Saturday, said the fire charred about an acre. The fire moved away from the houses, he said.

Investigators found matches at the scene, and Ron Ivie, City Hall’s chief building official, said he determined a young girl caused the fire with matches. Ivie said she set paper on fire. The fire then spread to the grass, according to Ivie.

"Matches are not safe, especially in this environment," Ivie said.

The smoke was visible for miles, with one person watching the firefighters saying they saw the smoke from U.S. 40. Donn Mosher, who lives on Estates Drive in Park Meadows, was driving home from Wyoming and saw the smoke while at Silver Creek Junction, the Interstate 80-U.S. 40 interchange.

"We thought it was a forest fire. We knew it had been thundering and lightning over here," Mosher said, describing seeing "lots of smoke."

Firefighters had blocked off nearby streets by the time Mosher drove into Park Meadows.

Craig Earnshaw, meanwhile, was having lunch at a friend’s house on the northeast edge of Park Meadows when he saw smoke and what he described as 20-foot-tall flames on a hillside.

"There were very large flames and lots and lots of smoke, and it was moving up the hill," Earnshaw said, adding it was difficult to see whether a house was on fire of if the flames were coming from the grass.

Earnshaw, who lives on Little Kate Road, said he has not witnessed a wildfire in Park Meadows in the almost 16 years he has lived in the neighborhood. He said the firefighters put down the flames quickly.

Park City Councilwoman Candy Erickson, another Little Kate Road resident who was at the scene, said she remains concerned about the chances of a wildfire, saying there is a lot of "dry tinder around here."

"Am I worried? Yea, always," she said, adding she is surprised recent lightning has not started grass fires recently.

Erickson saw smoke from her deck and walked to the scene with her husband, Bruce. She urged people to be careful when they barbecue and talk to children about the dangers of matches.

Ivie said the fire danger in the Park City area is high. He said grass and other vegetation dried out recently, providing potential fuel for a fire.

The fire is believed to be the most serious in Park City since an Old Town blaze in June destroyed a house and damaged four others, including the historic Angel House.


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