A fast-moving grass fire damaged a property owned by the widow of Penny Dollar, a well-known local figure for whose grandfather Dollars Corner was named.
A friend of the Dollar family’s, trying to kill wasps with carburetor cleaner and a lighter, caused a fast-spreading grass fire at the family property Friday afternoon, officials said. The fire sparked around 1:30 p.m. at 7410 N.E. 239th St. when a flaming wasp nest blew into dry grass, said Susan Anderson, Clark County senior deputy fire marshal.
Firefighters with Clark County Fire & Rescue called to the reported grass fire were initially dispatched to 7410 N.E. 219th St. in Dollars Corner. After dispatchers corrected the address, they redirected the firefighters.
Once they arrived, they found flames in a grassy area between two former chicken sheds and requested additional units for a potential structure fire, said Dan Yager, Clark County Fire & Rescue deputy chief of operations.
A second alarm brought in units from the Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Fire District 3. An AMR ambulance was waiting nearby.
Firefighters worked to contain the grass fire and knock out a fire in an empty chicken shed. At one point, flames were stretching 15 to 20 feet high inside the building, Yager said. The other shed didn’t catch fire but was filled with smoke.
Before he died in 2009, Penny Dollar (his birth name was Linn) was the unofficial fire-commissioner-for-life in Dollars Corner. One of his jobs included raising 50,000 chickens on the family property. The chicken sheds that burned Friday were being used to store cars and car parts, said Virginia Dollar.
Yager estimates it took firefighters about 15 minutes to douse the flames once the first unit arrived.
Crews stayed behind spraying charred earth, grass and dirt with water to try to prevent the fire from reigniting. One crew would likely stay for several hours to make sure that didn’t happen, Yager said.
There were no reported injuries.
Things could have been worse, Yager said, noting the low humidity after several days of high temperatures.
“This wasn’t very big, but it was close,” Yager said, noting that the fire might have spread to a grassy field to the north if the winds had been different.
Damage was estimated at $2,500 for the shed and an additional $1,000 for property in the field, according to the fire marshal’s office. According to county property records, the property is owned by Janet Dollar, widow of Penny Dollar.
There were several other fires reported in grass, brush or bark dust throughout the county Friday.
Fire District 3 responded to a brush fire near Larch Corrections Center.
The fire was reported just after 11 a.m. near the junction of the L-1500 and L-1400 roads about a quarter mile east of the Four Corners intersection in the Yacolt Burn State Forest.
Due to the high potential for the fire to grow rapidly, crews from East County Fire and Rescue, Fire District 13 and the Department of Natural Resources were called in, as well.
Firefighters arrived to find a slow-moving fire near the road, not in heavy timber, that was about 30 feet square. The fire was put out in six minutes and the units from the other districts were canceled.
“If we’d had any wind up there, it would have been a lot worse,” said Ray Steiger, spokesman for Fire District 3. “Fortunately someone called in and spotted it right away.”
The Department of Natural Resources is investigating.
Fire District 3 was dispatched earlier to an unattended campfire off Hantwick Road in Yacolt around 6:30 a.m. A bear hunter spotted it and called 911 about the fire.
A squad truck and a fire engine responded but had trouble accessing the road. The squad continued up the road without the engine to find a 3-foot-by-5-foot abandoned campfire. The fire was quickly extinguished by the squad crew.
“I hope people will take extra caution,” Steiger said. “That campfire was an illegal fire, besides being unsafe.”
Burn bans took effect July 15 on private property in both Clark and Cowlitz counties. They’re scheduled to remain in place until Sept. 30 or later, depending on conditions.
After nearly a week of hot weather, Western Washington wildlands are drier and more combustible than usual. The Yacolt Burn State Forest is under a red flag warning, meaning that fire conditions are dangerous or about to be that way.
There’s a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms and lightning Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’re naturally pretty concerned about that,” Steiger said.
Craig Brown contributed to this report.