California Firefighter Tosses Burning Rat in Fire; Complaint Lodged

July 02--A smoldering rodent has caused a mild flap in Marin's firefighting ranks.

The Marin Humane Society received an anonymous complaint from a witness at a controlled burn last week east of Marinwood that a student trainee on the perimeter of the fire scooped up a live field mouse or rat that was smoking from the flames and threw it back into the grassy fire area.

Ken Massucco, chief of Marin County Fire Department, confirmed the incident and said all the parties involved have been interviewed. He said anything on fire in a controlled burn area must be stopped from heading into adjacent areas to prevent an unwanted spreading of the fire.

In this case, the firefighter did the right thing by returning it to the burn area, Massucco said.

"Certain people might take offense to that," he said. "It might look offensive, but you have to detain them before they start a new fire. Hopefully people will understand."

Massucco said anyone who sees an animal on fire in a burning area, whether it's a controlled burn or a wildfire, is profoundly affected. "You can imagine how tough it is to see that," he said.

Carrie Harrington, spokeswoman for the Marin Humane Society, said her agency understands the firefighting protocol and she acknowledged the firefighter did what was necessary. Massucco said witnesses to future controlled burns would be briefed on the protocol for preventing fire from expanding around the controlled area.

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