Attempted campfire sparks cotton, fire spreads into Bloomington backyard and wash

ST. GEORGE — A group of juveniles set a campfire in the backyard of their house on Saturday night and the fire quickly spread into the cottonwood cotton on the ground. Once the cotton caught fire, it spread into areas of the backyard and the wash near the house.

A fire was sparked in Bloomington Hills when a campfire got into some cottonwood leaves, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2020 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News

“This evening, we had a report of a brush fire and then a structure fire here in the gardens area of Bloomington,” St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said. “What we found when we arrived was a fire in the wash and a fire in the backyard around some sheds.”

Stoker added what ended up happening was some juveniles were building a small fire in their backyard, which is allowed by code.

“However, there was a lot of cottonwood cotton off the trees that were all around that backyard,” Stoker said. “As soon as they lit the small fire, the cotton caught on fire which accelerated rapidly throughout the yard and down into the wash area.”

No structures were damaged as a result of the fire, it only burned weeds and brush in the backyard of the home and in the wash. Fire crews were on scene shortly after the fire started since there is a fire station nearby and they were able to knock down the flames in the backyard quickly.

Stoker spoke about the dangers of the cottonwood cotton and the possibility of injuries because of it. The cotton burns quickly, acts similar to gasoline and spreads rapidly with intense flames. Stoker said they have had some juveniles in the past that have received burns because of this cotton. He said that people having fires in their backyards need to be mindful of this and if you have these trees. He said to rake the leaves up and put them in the trash to dispose of them.

“The kids that were there were teenagers,” Stoker said. “They immediately ran into the house, had their parents call 911 and started to try and extinguish the fire with some garden hoses.We interviewed them and they took responsibility right away, did the appropriate thing and we commend them for that.”

A fire was sparked in Bloomington Hills when a campfire got into some cottonwood leaves, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2020 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News

The fire crews let the wash burn for a while so that some of the brush in the wash would burn off. Stoker said the goal was to help prevent fires this summer when fire season is in full swing.

As for recreational fires in people’s backyards, Stoker recommended using a fire ring or a fire pit as the flames can sometimes creep into the grass or brush. It’s also possible for the fire to smolder and then spark a larger fire.

“Generally, the fire rings that you can buy at your local hardware stores are really good to have if you’re going to have any type of fire,” Stoker said.

There have been a number of controlled burns getting away from people in the last week and Stoker brought up the fact that the burn season is closing early this year on May 17. In the meantime, you do still need a permit for controlled burns and can obtain it on most of the Fire Department websites.

You can be cited for burning without a permit. Even if you do have a permit, you are responsible for any damage done and the suppression needed. Those with a permit should always have ample water supply when getting ready to start a permitted controlled fire.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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