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Errant firework smokes city

With heat waves blurring images of firefighters beating out flames in a field dangerously close to Cathy and Richard Fakkema’s farm, a brush fire made quick work of turning the brittle stalks of grass into a black field of ash Tuesday.

The fire, which started in the early afternoon, was kindled by a firecracker that landed in a dry field.

Cathy Fakkema said she did not realize her son was playing with parachute firecrackers until one flew over her head and startled her. She realized the dangerous fire potential and asked him to stop playing with the firecrackers.

They saw, however, that a piece of one firecracker landed in the grazing field on the side of the house. But Fakkema said they did not think much of it after nothing appeared to have happened from it landing there.

Twenty minutes later, Fakkema said she and her husband could see smoke and hear crackling. Within minutes, the field was ablaze and the cloud of smoke took over the sky and filtered into Oak Harbor.

Marv Koorn, chief of Fire District 2, said the firefighters’ main concern was to keep the flames away from the Fakkemas’ home and their farm structures.

“We were really fortunate, as dry as it was,” Koorn said. “It turned out for the better due to the wind.”

Letting some of the field burn and cutting off any dangerous exits, the firefighters waited for backup and water trucks. Koorn said his men contained the fire, along with the help of Fire District 5 and backup from the Navy base.

The blazing field soon died out as it had a cultivated field on one end, a ditch and road on the other and fire teams fighting its perimeter.

The fire consumed about three to four acres of grazing land and burned its way to the very edges of the Fakkemas’ lawn. Working in 90 degree weather, it took 24 firefighters and several water tanks and trucks more than three hours to extinguish the flames.

“It is probably one of the hardest things for kids to understand,” Fakkema said. “Yeah, it was an accident and they’re volunteer firefighters, but it still costs.”

Richard Fakkema said he was going to take his tractor and plow furrows between the charred grass and the still-dry grass to minimize the potential for re-ignition of the fire from the embers.

“What do you have left to do up there?” Koorn asked, radioing to the last of the firefighters in the field.

“We’re pretty much done out here,” a voice responded. “We’re just wetting things down.”

Koorn called his men in and told them to head back to the fire station to eat and get things cleaned up.

Koorn advised that during the dry season, families keep their lawns watered and any vegetation close to houses wet and well maintained. He also advised against stacking fire wood against or too near the home. And none of the firefighters involved in this fire would advise playing with fireworks this time of year.

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