Friday brush fire deemed suspicious

A brush fire that spread across approximately 10 acres near Burley-Olalla Road Friday afternoon is being investigated as “suspicious,” according to Jerry Johnson, an incident commander with the Department of Natural Resources.

“Fires just don’t start on their own in the middle of the ground like that,” Johnson said. “There were no reports of lightning, and there’s no reason to believe that Mother Nature had anything to do with it.”

As far as a specific cause, however, Johnson said Monday that his office had not yet determined a specific cause.

“I was hoping to have more of a lead on that at this point,” he said, explaining that fire investigators have probably gathered as much evidence from the field as they can, and at this point they are hoping for new leads from other sources, such as witnesses.

The fire began shortly before 3:30 p.m. Aug. 17 on SE Carriage Place, just north of Burley-Olalla Road and near State-Route 16.

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Duty Chief Guy Dalrymple said when the first engine showed up “there were three small fires and it looked like something they could handle.”

However, Dalrymple said the wind picked up and began to spread the fire, and when a State Patrol helicopter flew overhead, the size of the fire was revealed to be a quarter of an acre.

“By that time, the lieutenant who first responded could see what she really had and called a second-alarm,” he said, explaining that the fire continued to spread and eventually grew to a three-alarm blaze that was threatening a few nearby houses at one point.

“There were four homes we were concerned about,” Dalrymple said, explaining that one of them belonged to one of his coworkers. “But the fire only got as close as within 40 feet of one of the houses, and none of them sustained any damage.”

Dalrymple said SKFR was joined in the effort by the DNR, which he said owns the property where the fire broke out.

“And they can call in a lot of resources, like a helicopter, bulldozers, and some inmate crews that were very helpful, particularly in digging a perimeter ditch around the fire,” he said.

He said the “forward progress of the fire” was stopped around 6 p.m., and by 10 p.m. the crews had it about 50-percent contained.

“Of course, the recent rain we had was very helpful — that took care of the rest of it,” he said, explaining that in brush fires, the fire can spread to underground plant roots. And if that happens, the fire is often not completely extinguished until the ground is “saturated.”

Johnson said anyone who may have witnessed anything or otherwise has information regarding the fire can call the DNR’s South Puget Sound Office at (360) 825-1631 and ask for Chris Rankin, or call Kitsap County Fire Marshal Tina Turner at 337-5785.

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