Boys Playing with Model Rocket May be Cause of Washington Range Fire

PROSSER, Wash. (AP) -- A range fire that blackened more than 800 acres in the Horse Heaven Hills south of town has been blamed on some boys playing with a model rocket.

No evacuations were ordered and no injuries were reported after the fire roared through dry brush Thursday, officials said, but many residents in and around the Painted Hills development on the south edge of town sprayed their houses with garden hoses and one woman said the flames advanced to within 50 yards of her home.

By early Friday the fire was 30 percent contained, Fire Chief Douglas N. Merritt said. About 80 firefighters from Benton and Yakima counties were trying to dowse the flames.

Police Chief Patrick McCullough said some boys who had been playing with a model rocket came forward voluntarily to say they were responsible. He called the fire a ''total accident.''

In an unrelated fire with a bizarre twist, a 3-year-old boy was seriously burned Thursday morning after he and another boy set a house ablaze in Yakima while playing with a cigarette lighter, authorities said.

Relatives broke a window to rescue the boy, Emilio Rivera, and a 3-year-old playmate, Gustavo Lagarde. Rivera was being treated for serious burns to the left arm and head and for respiratory injuries at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.

Firefighting was halted for 15 minutes after a next-door neighbor, described by neighbors and police as having a recent history of mental problems, attacked a firefighter and began brandishing a pistol when he was told the flames were threatening his house.

The man avoided two attempts to jolt him into submission with a Taser stun gun and barricaded himself in his home before being subdued when police fired the Taser a third time, Capt. Jeffrey Schneider said.

The Rivera family's one-story cottage was gutted, but it was unclear whether more could have been saved had there not been the standoff, officials said.

Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic

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