Brush fire tears through Riverdale; two boys stymie suspect

Thursday , June 12, 2014 - 8:05 AM

Standard-Examiner staff


Standard-Examiner staff

RIVERDALE — Homeowners evacuated their property near 3750 South and 600 West after a large brush fire swept through the Riverdale Weber River Parkway on Wednesday afternoon, coming as close as 10 feet to some backyards.

Several nearby agencies responded to the large blaze, which was called in at about 4 p.m. and spread in a northeast direction along the popular Weber River walking trail in the area.

Some nearby residents voluntarily evacuated Wednesday, while others stayed put and anxiously watered their lawns.

By early evening, Riverdale Fire Chief Roger Bodily reported the fire was 85 percent contained. It was started, authorities said, when an 18-year-old man was showing two women how quickly cotton could catch fire, but then dropped the small piece of cotton after being burned on the hand.

Ebert credited the efforts of Carter and Cutler Warren, the two sons of Riverdale Sgt. Casey Warren, for catching the culprits and spotting the fire early. Warren told the Standard-Examiner he was tubing down the river with his two boys when Cutler, 10, noticed a thick plume of smoke.

As Warren and his sons moved closer to the fire, he said, 12-year-old Carter spotted three individuals running from the scene toward a residential area. Warren said he approached the individuals and they initially denied any involvement but later relented.

“They were like, ‘what fire?’ ” Warren chuckled.

An on-duty officer was dispatched to speak with the suspect, Warren said, and he and his sons went door to door warning the neighborhood.

Warren said the bizarre incident was exciting for his boys.

“They thought it was pretty neat to spot a fire and try to help people,” he said.

The identity of the suspect has not been released as investigators determine what charges to press. Riverdale Police Lt. James Ebert said it is possible the suspect will be charged with reckless burning, a misdemeanor crime that “can carry a pretty heavy fine.” Police don’t believe the fire was started intentionally.

No injuries or damage to homes were reported as of Wednesday evening, though some trees had fallen and underbrush in the area was devastated.

“The cotton seeds obviously from cotton trees are making it a little more difficult (to contain) because it spreads the fire so fast,” Bodily said. “The low humidity is not helping us at all.”

The area of the fire was determined to be nearly 5 acres and about one half mile long from north to south.

Large trees up to 70 feet tall were still burning early Wednesday evening and considered a fire hazard. 

“There’s still quite a bit of cotton in the trees, and it’s coming down almost daily,” Bodily said.

Firefighters recommended to nearby resident Dan McAllister that he and his wife leave their home. McAllister was away from his house when his daughter called and told him about the blaze.

“I started spraying the trees around my house,” he said.

“Before I knew it, I heard a big crack (and saw flames approaching).”

Flames came within 10 feet of his backyard before crews arrived and contained the worst of it, McAllister said.

“They’re still steaming, but it seems to be better,” he said of the trees near his home.

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart.

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