Fireworks likely sparked Basalt wildfire
August 6, 2009
BASALT – An illegal fireworks device apparently sparked a wildfire that threatened to engulf homes on a hillside above downtown Basalt on Tuesday.
Police recovered the remains of the device Tuesday evening, but don’t know who was responsible for shooting it off, said Basalt Sgt. Roderick O’Connor.
“It was definitely human-caused, we just don’t know who the humans are,” he said Wednesday.
A fuel cell and a plane-like device that apparently shot off the ground were found after the blaze was extinguished, O’Connor said. The cell was not burned in the blaze, but was found near where the fire started. Authorities believe the cell shot out a flame as the device launched, igniting the dry grass.
The windy afternoon whipped up the blaze, which burned toward two homes and was stopped within 10 feet of one residence thanks to the quick work of the first police officers and firefighters on the scene, O’Connor said. More than 50 firefighters from several agencies ultimately responded. The fire torched about two acres.
Several neighbors reported hearing what they said sounded like bottle rockets popping, but the device wasn’t a bottle rocket and burning pinons might have caused the popping sound, the sergeant said. No one spied kids playing in the area, he said.
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If word of mouth leads police to juvenile culprits, police would likely talk to both the youths and their parents, and the case report would go to the district attorney for consideration of any further action.
“Nobody’s going to go to jail,” O’Connor said. “Now, if we had lost a house, that would be a different story.”
O’Connor said he doesn’t believe anyone intentionally sparked the fire. He also urged caution, given the currently dry conditions.
“The goal here would be to get the word out that it’s dry – tinder dry – right now,” he said. “Don’t be playing with matches, don’t be playing with fireworks, don’t be doing anything that would light the grass on fire.”