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December 23, 2013 at 9:08 PM

80,000-acre fire in July blamed on wiring of orchardist’s pump

By Christine Pratt / The Wenatchee World

KITTITAS COUNTY — Bad electrical wiring that powered an orchardist’s irrigation pump caused last summer’s Colockum Tarps Fire, which burned 80,000 acres, destroyed four homes and many outbuildings and caused dozens to flee their properties, the state says.

Longtime Colockum orchardist William Scroggie owned the improperly wired pump, which he used to irrigate his cherry orchard, the state Department of Natural Resources concluded in a report released Monday.

An improperly spliced electrical wire was left exposed and laying on the ground along a path that connected Scroggie’s irrigation pump to an improperly wired electrical panel, the report said.

The exposed wires caused a sustained spark, called an “arc,” that ignited nearby brush and grasses, the report said.

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Bob Redling said the agency will seek to recover the $11 million cost of fighting the fire, which burned for weeks and deployed local, state and federal crews, including air support.

Redling said he didn’t immediately know whether Scroggie had been fined.

Scroggie wasn’t immediately reachable for comment Monday.

The July 27 fire ignited near the pumping system on the west side of the Scroggie orchard next to Colockum Road, the report said. Conditions at the time were hot, dry and windy. The fire quickly spread into Kittitas County and grew to more than 80,000 acres.

Three occupied homes and one vacant home were destroyed, another was heavily damaged and a sixth home suffered minor damage in the blaze, which also destroyed many outbuildings.

The report cites two earlier fire incidents involving Scroggie. One of them, in July 2007, was caused by a electrical short circuit that caused a pumphouse at 7181 Colockum Road to overheat. That fire burned 250 acres, but caused no property damage, the report said.

In February 2011, Scroggie sparked a 10-acre blaze when he was burning weeds around his irrigation pump. According to a report by Chelan County Fire District 1, the wind picked up and the fire “got away from him.” No property was damaged.

Redling said previous incidents involving Scroggie will be taken into account when determining whether he should be required to reimburse the agencies for the cost of the Colockum Tarps Fire.

0 Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: orchardist, pump, started

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