Bystanders jeopardize operations as firefighters battle 24-foot blaze

ST. GEORGE – St. George fire units spent Sunday evening knocking down a 25-foot blaze. While some bystanders jumped in to offer assistance, other fire-scene bystanders reportedly put a damper in operations, causing one firefighter to almost get run over at the scene.

A 25-foot brush fire burned a half an acre near Bridge Pointe Way, St. George, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News
A 25-foot brush fire burned a half an acre near Bridge Pointe Way, St. George, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo by Michael Durrant, St. George News

“We were just watching TV inside the house and got a knock on the door from some neighbors – some kids that had told us that the house or the area behind the house next door was on fire,” Kodi Lovett, a Las Vegas resident visiting St. George, said. “So we went running out and they asked us to turn on the sprinklers, so then that’s when I ran over and saw that it was real.”

Around 8:30 p.m., fire crews were dispatched to reports of a brush fire on Bridge Pointe Way, St. George Fire Battalion Chief Robert Hooper said, adding that large amounts of smoke and flames in the area were noted upon arrival.

However, a numerous amount of bystanders put a slight delay in the firefighters’ response, he said, hindering the assignment being initiated.

A 25-foot brush fire burned a half an acre near Bridge Pointe Way, St. George, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Kodi Lovett, St. George News
A 25-foot brush fire burned a half an acre near Bridge Pointe Way, St. George, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Kodi Lovett, St. George News

“Initial units arrived on scene, found 30-40 bystanders and citizens checking out the fire kind of clogging up the streets,” Hooper said, “so we ask if people see a fire, to kind of steer clear of the area. It did kind of slow down our response and attack on the fire. In addition to that, one of our staff members was almost run over.”

Harriette Beal said in Facebook messages Sunday and Monday to St. George News that her daughter’s car was in front of her house when the incident occurred and the fireman told her daughter to move the car.

“I was next door to the fire the hydrant was on the left side of my driveway. My daughters car was in front of my house,” Beal wrote Monday. “They asked her to move it she started it, it is a race mini and makes a lot of noise and proceeds to do what she was told and a fireman walks behind her.”

Tom Callister, who lives in the neighborhood, said his family was having a BBQ by the pool when he noticed embers and smoke coming from behind his neighbor’s house.

“I could tell that it was larger than normal – like there was something wrong, so there were probably 20 of us over here in a matter of a minute and we ran back and got some buckets,” Callister said, adding:

At that time, the fire was probably about 10 feet high. It was in a circle kind of. It was in a radius of maybe 25 feet wide, 10 feet high. By the time we got another hose hooked up and we had all the buckets back over here, it was 20-25-foot flames and it was just going crazy.

Neighbors in the area formed a line and began throwing buckets of water from the pool over a fence to try to knock down some of the flames, Callister said.

“It was just – it was getting too big and we realized that we weren’t even doing anything,” he said, “so we just soaked the weeds that were closest to the house.”

A 25-foot brush fire burned a half an acre near Bridge Pointe Way, St. George, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Tom Callister, St. George News
A 25-foot brush fire burned a half an acre near Bridge Pointe Way, St. George, Utah, Sept. 6, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Tom Callister, St. George News

“It was a little bit scary because when our family went to put out the fire you never know what’s going to happen,” said neighbor Hannah Callister, “so it was a little nerve-racking at first but then we all came back safe.”

Nineteen firefighters, three engines, two brush trucks and two administrative vehicles responded to the scene, Hooper said.

While the blaze stretched across and burned approximately half an acre of brush, Hooper said, no damage was caused to any of the nearby homes or property.

Firefighters had the fire contained in about 30 minutes, he said, and no injuries were reported.

As this report is published, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by the authorities and may not contain the full scope of findings.

UPDATED to include messages from Harriette Beal.

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Email: kscott@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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