Local

11 grass fires sparked east of Waterford

A fire that was started by a tractor trailer driving west on Highway 132 east of Waterford Thursday, July 17, 2008.   Several departments are fighting the fires that run on both sides of the road for one to two miles between Hazeldean Road and the Roberts Ferry Bridge. (Marty Bicek/The Modesto Bee)
A fire that was started by a tractor trailer driving west on Highway 132 east of Waterford Thursday, July 17, 2008. Several departments are fighting the fires that run on both sides of the road for one to two miles between Hazeldean Road and the Roberts Ferry Bridge. (Marty Bicek/The Modesto Bee) Modesto Bee

WATERFORD -- Firefighters spent hours putting out 11 grass fires that threatened a house and stalled traffic in both directions on Highway 132 several miles east of Waterford on Thursday afternoon, according to the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District.

Firefighters stopped the flames from reaching the house near Roberts Ferry School, and no structures were damaged, said Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Battalion Chief Mike Wapnowski. Nobody was at the home when the fires started.

He said one firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and was treated and released at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

Wapnowski said the fires burned 57 acres of dry grass along the highway.

The fires were scattered over six miles near Roberts Ferry Road south of Modesto Reservoir, Wapnowski said. The fires were sparked on both sides of the highway.

"The fires were scattered over such a far distance, it was hard to figure out how many fires were burning," Wapnowski said. "Once we were able to figure out where they were, we were able to get equipment to those areas."

He said the fires' origin had something to do with a big rig hauling equipment on a trailer, but fire officials had not determined the cause of the fires Thursday night.

No further information about the big rig and its driver was available.

Firefighters arrived shortly after 1 p.m. to find large columns of smoke billowing in the air, causing a hazard for drivers, Wapnowski said. California Highway Patrol officers closed Highway 132 in both directions, but the road was reopened about 5:30 p.m.

Wapnowski said the firefighters had the blaze under control in about two hours, but crews remained at the scene for several hours putting out smoldering spots in the charred grass.

Oakdale Rural and Hughson fire agencies assisted in putting out the fires, along with help from crews and aircraft from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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