HANFORD — Hanford became partially enveloped by an amber-colored haze Wednesday after a grass fire started in an abandoned walnut orchard west of town.
The fire was near the intersection of 14th Avenue and Grangeville Boulevard in Hanford, just west of Pioneer Union Elementary School.
Kings County Fire Capt. Kevin Menezes said crews were dispatched at around 8:42 this morning to the site of the uncontrolled walnut orchard, which was full of dead trees and 3-foot-tall dead grass.
Menezes said the fire was an illegal burn that looked to have been set on the northwest end of the property. He said they are not yet sure what started the fire, and would continue with an investigation.
The property seemed to be a site of trash dumping, including barrels and old mattresses, Menezes said. He said the dumped items made it more difficult for the firefighters to gain access to the property to put the fire out.
Menezes said his crew of about 12 firefighters started to attack the 48-acre fire from the wind-driven direction, but decided to back out due to the dangerous squirrel- and fox-hole laden terrain.
“We backed out, let the fire burn and ended up doing a backfiring operation off the canal and let it burn back into it,” Menezes said.
The priority for the fire crew was not letting the fire get near Pioneer Elementary because the area to the north of the school is also comprised of tall dead grass and brush, Menezes said.
Menezes said the department contacted the school to keep them informed and told them to keep the students indoors in order for them to not inhale the smoke.
Grass fires are the most common type of fires local crews have to deal with. Tall, dry grass or weeds are considered “light, flashy fuels” because they light quickly and easily spread the flame to surrounding areas.
Menezes said the county enforces weed abatement on a complaint-only basis.
By noon Wednesday, most of the dry grass was burned and the fire was still smoldering on some of the trees, but the scene was being carefully watched by firefighters to make sure nothing progressed to nearby areas.
Menezes said a crew would be on site until at least Thursday morning to make sure everything burned down properly.
The Kings County Fire Department wasn't the only fire department responding to a fire Wednesday.
The Hanford Fire Department responded to a structure fire Wednesday morning on the 1200 block of North Harris Street.
Fire Chief Chris Ekk said some wooden stairs in an older home caught fire, but the occupants had most of the small fire extinguished by the time fire crews arrived on scene.
Ekk said crews stayed on scene to check the area and make sure the fire didn't extend. The situation was handled easily and crews left the scene before 11 a.m.