- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—As Yogi Berra would say, it was déj… vu all over again for Yakima firefighters.

For the second time in less than a week, firefighters were simultaneously contending with a brush fire and two house fires Sunday night that pushed the city’s firefighters to the limit.

Last Wednesday, close to 100 firefighters were kept busy at simultaneous fires that destroyed a home on South 25th Avenue, damaged another house on Conestoga Boulevard and scorched about 5 acres off Pecks Canyon that threatened several homes.

“It isn’t normal to have that many fires so close together,” said Capt. Jeff Pfaff, spokesman for the Yakima Fire Department.

There is no evidence suggesting any of the fires are connected, but it has been six years since firefighters have been so pressed for manpower, said Pfaff.

In the Sunday and Wednesday fires, Yakima called on other Upper Valley fire departments for assistance in fighting the fires, as well as ensuring stations were manned if additional fires broke out.

On Sunday, the city did not have off-duty firefighters to call on for backup because it was so busy, Pfaff said.

Pfaff said the last time Yakima firefighters were pushed that hard was the former Boise Cascade mill fire in 2009, when thousands of dry logs being stored on the property caught fire.

Sunday’s fire activity began at 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of Powerhouse and Pecks Canyon roads, near the 40th Avenue Fred Meyer store. About 30 acres of brush and cheat grass were burned as winds estimated at 25 mph pushed the fire toward as many as four homes at times.

“The conditions were just about as bad as they could be. We had a stiff wind and a steep slope aspect giving the fire all it needed to move very fast,” Shift Commander Mitch Cole said in the news release.

Almost 60 firefighters were assigned to the call, the release said. Yakima firefighters were helped by counterparts from East Valley, Gleed, Highland, Naches Heights, Nile, Selah, West Valley and the Army’s Yakima Training Center, as well as the Yakima Police Department and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.

The cost of damage from that fire was $58,000, according to the release.

While that fire burned, a call came in at 9:27 p.m. for a house fire at 623 Pleasant Ave., 3 miles away. That fire appeared to have been started by the air conditioner when the homeowners were using “bug bombs” to fumigate the house.

Twelve firefighters from Yakima and East Valley were able to contain the fire to one room, resulting in $20,000 damage.

The second house-fire call came in less than 10 minutes later at 402 N. Fifth Ave. Pfaff said there were no crews to send initially, as all Yakima fire crews were working the brush fire and the house fire on Pleasant Avenue. A truck was sent from Pleasant Avenue, and firefighters found flames coming from the second floor of an abandoned house, Pfaff said.

The first crew on the scene worked to keep the fire from spreading to neighboring houses, until they were joined by a second Yakima fire crew and firefighters from Gleed, East Valley and Highland, Pfaff said. A total of 17 firefighters were used at that fire, Pfaff said.

The house was declared a total loss, Pfaff said, and the city ordered the building demolished, according to a fire department news release. An excavator that was being used to knock the building down rolled over into the building’s basement, but the operator was not injured, the release said.

That fire caused $35,000 damage and is under investigation.

Pfaff said neighbors reported people going into the house, which had been boarded up. The house was the scene of seven fires since 2007, including a 2013 fire that killed two people.

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(c)2015 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.)

Visit Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) at www.yakima-herald.com

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