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Lawnmower sparks Provo neighborhood brush fire

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 23:30:32-04

PROVO, Utah — Firefighters said sparks from a commercial lawnmower ignited a brush fire in a neighborhood on the Provo/Orem border Wednesday that briefly forced evacuations.

READ: Utah drought report brings worrisome numbers, record lows across state

To fire crews and the people whose homes were in the path of the flames, it's proof that a fire can spark anywhere-- even in the middle of a busy business park.

"If you look out there it's kind of a tinderbox, and in this environment anything can happen," said Bruce Martin, whose parents live in one of the evacuated homes.

Ironically, Provo Fire Rescue said a landscaping crew trying to mow a grassy field to cut down fire danger near 400 North River Park Drive started the fire instead.

The mower blade hit a rock and sparks flew, Captain Sam Armstrong said, leading to the small blaze. Flames chewed through the field, which sits in Provo, and uphill toward homes, which are technically in Orem.

Provo Lawn Fire

Homes in the area along Palisades Drive were evacuated, and both Provo and Orem fire crews began trying to stop it from spreading.

The fire jumped a water canal behind the Martin home, and into the elderly couple's yard. Bruce Martin said his parents are 90 and 91 years old. Martin and his sister Elizabeth Sweat, upon getting a call from their mom, raced down to the house to help.

"We came down quickly, got the sprinklers on," Martin recounted. "The firemen were already here, and then we both got hoses, and started trying to put out the fire."

Two houses down from the Martin home, the brush fire burned so close to a home that only a flower bed separated the flames from the side of the house.

Captain Armstrong described how Orem firefighters stopped the blaze just short of the home.

"This is an example today of the significance of the fire danger in Utah this year, especially in open fields where there’s dry grass, any hillsides, and any structure that has shrubbery or trees that butt right up to the structure," Armstrong said. "That is just a pathway for the fire to move, and it will move quickly because of the dryness of that fuel."

Armstrong said the lawn crew continued mowing the field and finished without any other issues.

The fire burned part of the Martin couple's yard and singed a tree. Martin and Sweat, who brought her teenage son and daughter, came together to water the yard with hoses, pull weeds, and prune trees-- in hopes that there aren't any more fire scares this summer.

"We just started pulling and then we thought, if it's dry-- pull it up," Sweat said. "And then there’s less chance if there’s a spark that comes up later."

On Monday, Provo firefighters were called out to a brush fire that was started by fireworks. A teen now faces charges for lighting the fireworks in a restricted area and could face fines up to nearly $2,500.