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Homes saved from blazing fire
Seven homes in the Bard area near the Arizona border along the Colorado River were saved from a large brush fire Thursday thanks to the courageous efforts of local fire firefighters.
According to the Winterhaven Fire Department, as of 6 p.m. Thursday, the fire had burned through an estimated 100 acres of brush on Bureau of Indian Affairs land. No injuries have been reported.
Firefighters with the BIA, the Bureau of Land Management, Yuma Proving Ground Fire Department, Winterhaven Fire Department, City of Yuma Fire Department and Arizona State Fire were on the scene to battle the blaze.
"We were paged out at approximately 5:30 this morning to a brush fire," said Steve Taylor, WFD Fire Chief. "We brought out engines in the morning but the area was inaccessible to structure engines because of the rough terrain.
"We called in for additional resources from BIA, and once on scene they took command and we had a unified command. They ordered up a bull-dozer and cut a dozer line, and we were able to contain it. It was a coordination between all the agencies."
Heavy winds later in the afternoon caused the fire to jump around and start up again.
"The winds picked up at about 2 o'clock and jumped our fire line and when it got into (residential) areas I called out for mutual aid," Taylor said, adding WFD was on scene to prevent houses and other buildings from going up in flames.
"Where the fire originated from, it spread to the west and we got in there with units from BIA and BLM and were able to save four or five trailers which had two families that lived in them," Taylor said.
The fire was mostly burning brush, Taylor said.
"It is actually Bard Lake which is burning; an old river bottom. The old Colorado River channel used to go through there. Back in the '60s ... what they did is put in a new levy to channel the water around to make it good farmland. Now it is a dry river bed."
In the late afternoon, firefighters were battling the blaze as it approached two farm houses owned by Evelyn Berryman of Bard.
The 40 foot whirlwind of flames were so intense they actually melted the bottom of one firefighter's boots on scene.
"We were parked half a mile away and we could feel it," Berryman said, adding she was worried her houses were going to burn down.
"Oh yes we prayed. If the pine trees caught on fire, we knew we would lose the house, but the fire department has been here with their back up tankers and a lot of man power. We've had really good response."
The origin of the fire was still undetermined as of 6 p.m. Thursday. Wildland units were still on scene late into the night. BIA is investigating.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.