Shed fire erupts after resident torches weeds

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  • Firemen from the Libby Volunteer Fire Department douse flames from a shed fire, Wednesday around noon by Wisconsin and East 6th Street in Libby. (Luke Hollister/The Western News)

  • 1

    Flames rise from the attic of a shed fire, Wednesday around noon by Wisconsin and East 6th Street in Libby. (Luke Hollister/The Western News)

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    Homeowner Gayle Richards used a propane torch to burn weeds along her shed. “I thought I was just being so careful -- never careful enough I guess,” she said. (Luke Hollister/The Western News)

  • Firemen from the Libby Volunteer Fire Department douse flames from a shed fire, Wednesday around noon by Wisconsin and East 6th Street in Libby. (Luke Hollister/The Western News)

  • 1

    Flames rise from the attic of a shed fire, Wednesday around noon by Wisconsin and East 6th Street in Libby. (Luke Hollister/The Western News)

  • 2

    Homeowner Gayle Richards used a propane torch to burn weeds along her shed. “I thought I was just being so careful -- never careful enough I guess,” she said. (Luke Hollister/The Western News)

A Libby resident accidentally caused her shed to catch fire after burning nearby weeds with a propane tank torch, Wednesday around noon by Wisconsin and East 6th Street in Libby.

Gayle Richards was burning away weeds close along the side of her shed, said Steve Lauer, Libby Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief/fire marshal. Unattended grass left burning is what caused the fire, he said.

The grass or debris she burnt never got put all the way out, he said.

The attic space is burnt and everything below probably has water damage, he said. The flames started at the bottom corner of the shed and then spread up to the attic.

The whole attic is a total loss, he said. Lauer said he assumed the shed will probably have to come down.

Fire Investigator Timothy Kim said once the fire reached the attic, “it blew up.” Flames “crawled under — up the wall,” he said.

Richards said when she first saw the fire she got a hose, but it was not long enough. By then, flames had encased the whole shed.

She also made sure to get her propane tank well out of the way when she noticed the fire. “I thought I was just being so careful — never careful enough I guess,” she said.

Richards thinks the weeds she burned the evening prior just sat there and smoldered.

“I was just burning weeds. I can’t bend over and pick em’ any more,” she said.

Jake Mertes, an air quality specialist with the Lincoln County Health Department, said he would like people to remember burning can only take place during the designated time, and then only with a permit.

It is not possible to get a permit to burn grass, he said.

The residential burning period — which was extended this year — ended May 5.

The Lincoln County Air Pollution Control Ordinance on “outdoor burning regulations” states that residents burning outside of the dates April 1 to 30 are in violation of city regulations.

The ordinance also requires anyone conducting a residential burn to have an air quality permit.

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