Firefighters Casey Corcoram, Omar Araiza and Marcus Ekdahl hose down burning beehives off Cory Canyon Road on Wednesday.(Ty Barbour/Enterprise-Record)
BUTTE VALLEY – Several thousand bees were feared destroyed on property off Cory Canyon Road when a wildland fire burned hives and about two acres of dry grass and woodland Wednesday morning.
Butte County Fire/CDF Battalion Chief Bill Redding said the blaze was started by beekeepers on a flatbed truck using a smoke-producing device on hives.
Redding explained that smoke is used to calm the bees to make them easier to handle. Hot liquid used to produce the smoke reportedly spilled from the truck onto dry grass.
None of the firefighters were stung, Redding said, and the bees didn’t interfere with fighting the blaze. “We were mostly on the sides and flanks of the fire, not where the bees were,” he said.
One expensive home on Cory Canyon Road was threatened by the fire, but Redding said a bulldozer got a line around the wind-driven flames before they crested a hill and moved toward the residence.
The operators of an apiary on the property were issued a citation for starting the fire.
Redding said the value of the hives and bees lost in the blaze was approximately $3,000.
Calls to the apiary operators weren’t immediately returned.
Marie Bordin, operator of Bordin Bees in Durham, said the beekeepers were likely checking the condition of the insects and getting them ready for the almond pollination season in February. She said applying smoke to the hives is a common practice, but has to be done cautiously this time of year because of the high fire potential.
Six CDF engine companies, two bulldozers and two hand crews battled the fire. Helicopters and air tankers also responded, but weren’t needed to make any drops.