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Firefighters urge caution after 3 brush fires in 2 weeks found to be sparked by kids

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Posted at 7:22 PM, Jun 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-05 23:47:14-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Local firefighters have battled three brush fires in two weeks. The one thing they have in common? They were all started by kids.

Lourdes Lemus was in her house at George Square townhomes near 1000 East and 175 South when a wildfire broke out Thursday afternoon. Firefighters put it out quickly, but it came within about 20 feet of the building. St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said kids started the flames while playing with a cigarette lighter.

It’s the latest in a series of small fires started by juveniles. Another on May 26 torched a small ravine behind homes in the Stone Cliff area.

“Three juveniles that had fireworks down in a wash started a brush fire,” said Stoker of that fire. “No damage, but the they were cited.”

Washington County emergency managers are warning county residents about increased fire danger going into the already busy season. Emergency Services Director Pete Kuhlman said a wet May has grown plenty of fuel for wildfires.

“The hope is that we’ll continue to get moisture,” Kuhlman said. “But if we don’t, as the fuels dry out we’ll be dealing with some fire danger.”

Stoker said they typically do get more calls about small brush fires after school gets out for the summer. He said kids get bored and can end up getting into trouble.

Lemus says that’s been her worry since the fire Thursday and the reason she’s echoing firefighters’ warning that parents talk to their kids about fire safety. Both what to avoid and the potential consequences.

“If there is damage to structures, those responsible will be charged for the damages civilly and also will be cited,” Stoker said.

Kuhlman said the best thing people can do is to avoid anything that could spark dry grass, including throwing cigarette butts, driving through dry brush, and burning waste without a permit.

Additional safety precautions include:

  • Making sure you can legally burn in your area. Check with local authorities and obtain a permit.
  • Check the weather before you light a fire.  High winds, high temperatures, and low humidity radically intensify fire.
  • Choose a safe burning site away from trees or bush, buildings or other flammable fuels.
  • Have a means to extinguish your fire quickly. (Water, an extinguisher etc.)
  • Stay with your fire.  Don’t leave it unattended.
  • Don’t burn garbage, waste, construction debris, plastic, foam, rubber or other offensive substances.
  • Always extinguish the fire completely before you leave it.
  • Don’t throw lighted material, including cigarettes, from vehicles.
  • Be careful using tools that generate heat or sparks.
  • Use fireworks with caution, obey fireworks laws and don’t use illegal fireworks.
  • Never park on, or drive through, dry grass.
  • Be careful with the use of heat or spark generating tools or ATVs.
  • If shooting in the outdoors, choose your backdrop carefully, don’t use exploding targets and don’t use jacketed ammunition near dry brush.

You can obtain additional information on fire safety by visiting Utahfireinfo.gov or Smokeybear.com.