Model Rocket to Blame for 1k-Acre Fire in Benton County - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Model Rocket to Blame for 1k-Acre Fire in Benton County

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - Fire crews continued to put out hotspots Wednesday and assessed the damage from a large brush fire that scorched more than a thousand acres south of Kennewick Tuesday.

The Sheriff's Office said the cause of the fire was a rogue model rocket. A man's hobby gone wrong.

"A family was out they shot off a model rocket about three foot tall rocket. The wind seemed to catch it and actually entered a section of old dry grass, which started the fire," said Lt. Chuck Jones.

"It just blew up pretty fast, I thought the dirt road in front of our house was going to stop it but unfortunately it skipped over the road and once that happened it got really big, really fast," said neighbor Brian Rogers.

It burned through 1,000 acres in just a few hours time. Pat and Karen VanPelt's house was surrounded on all sides. They said neighbors with garden hoses helped save their house.

"We haven't gone and done a total recon of all the damage but pretty minor for the amount of fire we had and the amount of area that was covered," said Captain Devin Helland of Benton County Fire District One.

A total of 52 homes were threatened Tuesday but the only structural damage reported was to things like porches and fences. Despite the flames going up to people's houses there was no official evacuation order.

"We just advised them to shelter in place, turn off window and air conditioning, shut their windows and wait it out," Helland said.

More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze but some preparation work by homeowners helped keep the houses safe.

"You drive around this area, you're going to see which houses were in immediate threat, because they didn't have a greenbelt around them. You'll see the ones that were probably sitting back going, thank goodness I have that sprinkler system out there or a bunch of lawn or I mowed everything down to half an inch," said Helland.