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April 30, 2013 8:01 am

Smoke from controlled burn causes wreck

Written by Ilene Olson

Surrounded by thick smoke, Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Magill checks out a car driven into a ditch off Road 10 when the driver, Elaine Bushey of Powell, was blinded by smoke from a controlled burn around noon on Saturday. At this point, the smoke had cleared some; when firefighters first responded, it was impossible to see the car or anything around it. Surrounded by thick smoke, Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Magill checks out a car driven into a ditch off Road 10 when the driver, Elaine Bushey of Powell, was blinded by smoke from a controlled burn around noon on Saturday. At this point, the smoke had cleared some; when firefighters first responded, it was impossible to see the car or anything around it. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

Powell volunteer firefighters responding to the report of a car in a ditch Saturday afternoon soon discovered they couldn’t see the vehicle through smoke from a controlled burn.

The burn — an alfalfa field south of the beet dump on Road 10 — was fanned by sudden winds of approximately 20 mph, creating thick smoke that crossed Road 10 about one-half mile south of Coulter Avenue, obscuring vision.

It was that smoke that caused Elaine Bushey, 79, of Powell to run off the west side of Road 10 and into a small ditch, said Lance Mathess, spokesman for the Park County Sheriff’s Office.

“Ms. Bushey drove off the road at a very slow speed and crashed into an irrigation canal,” Mathess said in a prepared statement. “The canal had a very small amount of water in it. Ms. Bushey was uninjured.”

Fire Chief Joey Darrah said a volunteer firefighter happened to be near when Bushey’s car went into the ditch. The firefighter got her out of the vehicle and drove her to the beet dump, where emergency medical responders from Powell Valley Hospital checked her out.

Darrah said he didn’t know how long she was in the car, surrounded by smoke, but “she was out of the vehicle when I got there.”

Bushey was given a ride home, and her vehicle was towed there later.

To prevent more wrecks — possibly even head-on collisions — Darrah had fire trucks block Road 10 south of the beet dump and at the intersection of Road 10 and Lane 10.

While smoke from the fire caused visibility problems, the fire never actually got out of control, and the farmer stayed with it. He also had called the Park County dispatch center to advise of his plans for a controlled burn.

Darrah said he drove through the smoke on his way to the call.

“I’ve never seen it that bad,” he said. “I don’t know how I made it through.”

At the scene, he observed, “This is worse than any blizzard I’ve seen.”

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