The fire chief in Touchet, Walla Walla County, is not joking when he says burning mice running onto unburned surfaces may have restarted the blaze.
Flaming mice on the run.
That’s fire Chief Larry Hector’s best guess at what happened Saturday evening as flames rekindled from the Frog Hollow fire that began earlier in the day.
“Mice come out of the fire, on fire, and run into the unburned stuff. And start the fire all over again,” Hector explained.
Hector heads Walla Walla County Fire District 6 out of Touchet and was incident commander for three separate fires that scorched about 300 acres of mostly alfalfa stubble in the Touchet area. The original fire was started by a combine, the second started under a power line and the third was caused when a hawk struck a different power line and brought it down, he said.
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A fourth burn was a restart of the original Frog Hollow Road blaze, he said, and that came under control at about 5 p.m.
The situation forced the evacuation of one family in the 6000 block of Frog Hollow Road for a few hours, and other residents left nearby homes as a precaution, said Liz Jessee, director of Walla Walla County Emergency Management. Another family in the evacuation zone chose to stay in place with the help of sprinklers, she added.
Fighting flames exacerbated by high winds was a collaborative effort that brought about two dozen firefighters from five fire stations, Hector said.
The main fire began at Frog Hollow and Short roads just before noon, closing several roads in the area, including part of Highway 12, Jessee said.
The fires were contained by 4 p.m., with the rekindled blaze coming under control by about 5 p.m., she noted. Residents of the community were allowed to return home at 3:30 p.m.