Beach fire halted before bluff burns


Record editor

A beach fire that got out of control after an apparent drinking party was stopped Monday just before it set the bluff below Scatchet Head alight.

The challenging blaze, which began the night before as a driftwood camp fire, challenged Fire District 3 firefighters at about 6:30 a.m. Monday as it was a half mile from the nearest road access. It was not until FD3 was able to launch its small marine rescue boat — outfitted with a sea water pump and a few hundred feet of hose — that firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze.

Paul Busch, the assistant chief at FD3, said Monday that volunteers called to Driftwood Drive at Scatchet Head found a massive driftwood blaze measuring about 175 feet long and 30 feet wide. Using the boat, the fire department doused the fire just as it began to burn vegetation on the bluff.

Using car license information taken down by an area resident, the Island County Sheriff’s Office located five young men who confessed to starting the driftwood fire. According to Russ Linder, the chief of investigations for the office, the boys said they tried to extinguish the fire the night before, but could not.

Though a large number of empty beer cans were found at the site of the fire, the sheriff’s office could not charge the young men — all of whom are under 21 — with underage consumption since a deputy did not witness them drinking. No charges have yet been filed against the five.

Busch said the blaze would have been worse had it not rained Sunday night and Monday morning. He said he is hoping some sort of charge can be brought against the youths who started the fire. That would allow the fire district to charge them for the expense of extinguishing the fire.

The sheriff’s office reminds island residents that it is illegal to burn driftwood.

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