Animal likely caused fire near RC Willey building

Animal likely caused fire near RC Willey building

31 July 2008

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Salt Lake, USA — Fire investigators now know what caused a large grass fire near an RC Willey distribution center in Salt Lake two nights ago. That fire burned several semi trucks and sent workers at the building running for safety.

The fire likely began with an animal that was probably looking for food. Wild animals spend most of their lives hunting for something to eat. In this case, that hunt cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and the animal’s life.

Firefighters eventually put out the Tuesday night blaze. What caused it, though, at first didn’t seem to make sense.

Scott Freitag of the Salt Lake City Fire Department said, “It did take us a couple of days to figure out what happened.”

That’s because the only clue they could find, at first, was up in the air.

“There were some fuses blown on a power pole near the origin of the fire,” he said.

Blown fuses could cause a spark, which could fall to the ground into dry grass and start a fire. But something has to blow the fuse in the first place. That’s when crews looked down and saw a critter burned to death. It offered a theory.

“We found that there was a critter, probably a raccoon, that had climbed up the pole, got itself into the wires, caused a short circuit and some sparks,” Freitag said.

Those sparks then would have fallen from the power lines into the grass.

“The grass is so tinder dry right now, it’s a perfect fuel,” he said.

Unfortunately the critter died, either from being electrocuted, falling, or burning in the fire, or maybe all three. Freitag says this happens from time to time.

“It’s not uncommon for this sort of thing to happen. Animals and birds get caught up in power lines, fuses, transformers, that cause this sort of thing to happen,” he explained.

Freitag says even though the animal died, it left a good message to be careful. As dry as wild grass is right now, any type of a spark — from a dragging muffler, a dragging chain, even a cigarette butt tossed out the window — can cause a big fire quickly.

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