July 25, 2008

Firefighters Urge Caution After Blaze Near I-205


Firefighters from Vancouver Engine 81 spray water on a grass fire that burned about an acre along Interstate 205 Thursday afternoon. No property damage resulted.

A fire, sparked when a mower struck a rock, burned nearly an acre of grass near a busy Interstate 205 interchange Thursday.

Vancouver firefighters were called to the westbound Highway 500 onramp to southbound I-205 just before 2 p.m., according to firefighter-spokesman Jim Flaherty.

They arrived to find the fire circling a water retention pond in the median.

Three engines, a water tender and 10 firefighters worked the fire. Another engine stood by in case wind spread the flames. The Washington State Patrol provided traffic control.

The fire was under control in 15 minutes and was mopped up in an hour, according to Flaherty.

"This should serve as a reminder to our community that just a mere spark can cause dried grass in our area to ignite swiftly; especially along our highways, and any discarded burning material can lead to fast moving grass fires that can extend into business and residential areas," Flaherty said in a statement.

Man rejects 'shopper' scam

James Taylor didn't bite when a letter arrived in his mailbox - offering him a job he didn't apply for and containing what looked like a check for $3,984.

Taylor, 46, who lives in Vancouver's McLoughlin Heights area, said he got the letter early this week from someone claiming to represent a market research company.

It said the senders wanted to hire him as a "mystery shopper," supposedly to buy things in stores and report back on the store's selling practices and clerks.

Taylor said the check looked legitimate, complete with a water mark and color gradient. He was supposed to deposit it in his bank, then buy something while posing as a shopper and keep some of the money for himself.

Next, he was to wire about $3,400 to the senders by Western Union or MoneyGram.

It's a common scam that comes in many variations.

Had Taylor done what was asked, he later would have learned from his bank that the check was a worthless forgery. Any cash he'd have wired off would be his loss and the sender's gain.

Scam pitches often exploit victims' greed, Taylor said.

"This one works on people trying to get a job."

Taylor said he had no idea where the senders obtained his name and address.

Originally published by CRAIG BROWN; JOHN BRANTON Columbian staff writers.

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