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Fire caused by humans, officials say

Investigation ongoing in Beacon Hill blaze

Spokane firefighters said Tuesday that a dangerous brush fire on Beacon Hill on Monday was human caused, but they have not determined whether it was an accident or intentionally set.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer returned to the scene of the five-acre fire in northeast Spokane on Tuesday to investigate.

They found no indication that it was caused by electrical wires during Monday’s windstorm, and lightning was ruled out, Schaeffer said.

That leaves human activity as the likely cause, he said. The investigation was continuing.

Four fire engines, four brush rigs, a bulldozer and other equipment were used to fight the fire that broke out about the same time that winds peaked in Spokane, just after 3 p.m. Monday.

Firefighters arrived to find a three-acre fire in brush on the south side of Beacon Hill; they worked quickly as winds gusted in the 30 to 50 mph range, Schaeffer said.

No injuries were reported.

“The smoke and dust, we couldn’t hardly see anything in front of us but fire,” Schaeffer said.

The area has been used by transients for camping, he said.

Schaeffer said the department has been training for wildfire control because of the region’s history of fire devastation during windstorms.

“It was pretty predictable we were going to have that fire,” he said.

Beacon Hill has been the site of numerous fires over the years, including some caused by arson.

A story in The Spokesman-Review in 2005 indicated that the state Department of Natural Resources had responded to 137 wildfires on Beacon Hill from 1970 until then.

The hill, north of Upriver Dam on the Spokane River, has terrain within the city of Spokane and Fire District No. 9. Both agencies, along with the DNR, sent equipment and firefighters on Monday.

The hill is the site of high-voltage electrical transmission lines as well as communications and utility equipment.

The hill is popular for day use, including hiking and mountain biking, and is laced with numerous trails.


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