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UPDATE: Kennewick expands closure area of Zintel Canyon during fire-prevention work

Spirit of America Trail in Zintel Canyon

Kennewick resident Jeff Wiens is organizing a community meeting with city officials on July 17 about improving the Spirit of America Trail in Zintel Canyon through community involvement.
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Kennewick resident Jeff Wiens is organizing a community meeting with city officials on July 17 about improving the Spirit of America Trail in Zintel Canyon through community involvement.

UPDATE: City expands closure of Zintel Canyon trail. Closure is from 7th Avenue to 24th Avenue.

Zintel Canyon in Kennewick is closing for three days while volunteers work to clear brush and dead trees ahead of fire season. On Thursday, the city expanded the closure to the trailhead at 7th Avenue. It was previously going to be from 10th to 24th Avenue.

It was decided to expand the closure due to the scope of work that will be performed, the city announced.

Team Rubicon, a military veteran-led disaster response organization, is leading a cleanup in the popular walking area after nine fires last summer scorched nearly 10 acres.

The canyon will close Friday through Sunday between 7th Avenue and 24th Avenue while the work is being done. City officials said the closure is necessary to keep people safe.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to help make the park safer for people that use it and easier for emergency response vehicles to be able to access areas in case of an emergency or fire,” said Melissa Lantz, the incident commander for Team Rubicon.

The organization was created in the days following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It now has 90,000 volunteers who help communities recover after natural disasters.

The city-led efforts to improve safety in the 65-acre mostly natural area in the center of town followed a series of fires between April and September threatened nearby homes. While the fires were believed to have been caused by people, no one was arrested in connection to them.

Team formed to prevent fires

After last year’s disastrous wildfire that destroyed five homes on the south side of the city, Kennewick officials formed a hazard mitigation team to decrease the risk to people living at the edge of natural areas.

They put the team into action to find ways to reduce the chance of fires in Zintel Canyon. That included large-scale efforts to clean out dead brush and trees from the area. They also removed homeless camps, put up new signs with the park’s rules and installed trail markers.

Battalion Chief Mike Barnett of the Kennewick Fire Department tells about the Zintel Canyon blaze that threatened homes in Kennewick.

The partnership with Team Rubicon is the latest effort in their quest to improve safety.

“The city is extremely honored to have formed this partnership with Team Rubicon,” Fire Chief Vince Beasley said. “They bring a lot of passion into continuing to directly serve local communities after having honorably served their nation.”

While the city is not looking for help this weekend, they do welcome other groups or people who want to help. People can go to the city’s volunteer information website at bit.ly/Kennewickvolunteer for more information.

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Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.
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