Assistant fire chief says Manvel blaze was his fault

Assistant fire chief says Manvel blaze was his fault

4 November 2008

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USA — Officials now know who’s responsible for a 200-acre grass fire in rural Manvel, N.D. — and it’s not who you might think.

Gene Dub, the town’s assistant fire chief, said the blaze was his fault.

“It shouldn’t happen and it did happen, and under the circumstances where I’m sitting, it can happen to anybody,” he said.

Dub said he and a friend were scoping out hunting land in advance of deer season Saturday afternoon, when the heat from Dub’s all-terrain vehicle started a small grass fire. He put out what he thought was all of it and drove off.

But when Dub got to his truck parked about a half mile away, he noticed smoke in the distance. He said he reported the fire immediately.

For seven hours, 25 firefighters from three rural departments fought the blaze in a family-owned field enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program seven miles west of Manvel and a half mile north of Grand Forks. They put it out about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Dub told the Herald on Saturday he did not know what started the fire. But on Sunday, after the fire’s origin was determined to be the spot where the small blaze started, he realized his ATV was the cause. “Apparently, there must have been a hot spark in the grass” that ignited the larger fire, he said.

Dub acknowledges he should have been more careful.

“In my position, it’s just a stupid thing to do,” he said.

Maj. Mike Fonder, with the sheriff’s department, said no one will be cited in connection with the fire.

Deputy’s car burned

Fonder said his department lost a squad car in the grass fire.

The car, worth about $25,000 plus the cost of the equipment inside, caught fire when a deputy who was helping contain the blaze drove into tall grass. Either the heat from the catalytic converter, the exhaust pipe or both ignited the grass, he said.

The deputy tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire with an extinguisher. The car and its contents were destroyed.

“It’s completely gone,” he said. “It’s toast — a shell.”

Fonder said even though the ground is moist, there is a still a fire risk.

“The grass itself is pretty dry, but there is moisture,” he said. “Everything above ground is very, very dry.”

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