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Man fined for leaving fire

A North Whidbey property owner got into some hot water Tuesday afternoon when he started two giant burn piles and left them unattended.

The flaming piles of brush filled the sky south of Oak Harbor with a black plume of smoke and fogged up the area near Hastie Lake.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Marv Koorn was north of Oak Harbor when he received the report of the fire at 2 p.m. He said he could see the smoke as he was driving past the Coachman Inn and Best Western.

When firefighters arrived at the Boon Road site, they discovered that no one was tending the enormous fires, which had started to spread. At least three “spot fires” had starting smoldering in the nearby underbrush, Koorn said.

Firefighters quickly put out the spot fires and began spraying down the burn piles. One of the piles was too large and the fire was too hot to extinguish completely. Crews sprayed it down with a special foam designed to smother and soak into brush, but the fire wouldn’t be quelched.

Koorn said firefighters finally won the battle after a contractor “pulled the pile apart and scattered it” with a trackhoe, so that firefighters could spray it down completely.

Koorn said the 49-year-old property owner, Jesse Raymond, obtained a permit to burn the pile, but then violated the rules by leaving the fire unattended and not having any water close at hand.

The property owner was clearing the land for a home. According to Koorn, Raymond claimed he went to get a water tank Tuesday and left another man with the fire, but the other man left.

It’s a costly mistake. A deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s cited Raymond for violation of the Island County burn permit, which comes with a $475 fine.

In addition, the fire district may bill Raymond for the cost of the response. Koorn said between 17 and 20 firefighters responded to the scene with two engines, two tenders and two brush trucks. They were at the scene for about two hours.

After he figures out the cost, Koorn said he will ask the fire commissioners to decide whether or not to bill Raymond.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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