A fire in a wetland area near Andresen Road and Northeast 78th Street, which was allegedly sparked by a burning thistle pod, torched 8 to 10 acres and led to people leaving their homes and a nearby church.
The person who called 911 to report the fire just before 3 p.m. said they were with two young people they believed were responsible for the fire.
A small crew of firefighters initially thought they would be able to contain the blaze, but then the wind kicked up and fanned the flames, said Clark County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Todd Barsness.
“It became kind of a defensive fire,” he said.
Deputies interviewed an 18-year-old man who said he was in the wetland area and set fire to a thistle pod that he was holding, Barsness said. The thistle somehow got out of his hand and ignited the vegetation.
The wetland area was difficult to access by vehicle, posing a challenge for firefighters. The state Department of Natural Resources brought in some fire engines and a pair of helicopters; the helicopters got water from nearby ponds and reservoirs that was dumped on the fire in the marsh area, Barsness said.
Roads in the area, including Northeast 78th Street and Andresen Road, were closed as firefighters worked to check the fire’s spread.
“There was a point where the fire was burning heavily on the south side of 78th Street,” Barsness said. A couple of embers reached the other side of the street, but were quickly quenched by firefighters.
Karen McMillen, who lives on Northeast 66th Avenue, said that smoke and ash reached yards in the neighborhood.
Firefighters told residents in the area to spray down their roofs and eventually advised them to leave the area in case the fire got close to the neighborhood. Services were also shut down at New Heights Church.
“It came so close to the street. I really felt for the people at the end of the street,” said McMillen, who saw the fire growing eastward.
Everyone was spraying down each others homes, including the homes of people who were away.
“It was really neat to see people jumping out to help,” McMillen said. She saw people attaching their hoses to strangers’ spigots and spraying down fences. “Amongst all this, there were still fireworks in the area going off.”
Vadym Shevchenko was arrested and booked into the Clark County Jail on suspicion of first-degree reckless burning. The boy that was with him was not arrested and is being considered a witness.
This story will be updated.