Submitted photo##Firefighters battle a blaze at a rural Willamina home caused by fireworks.
Submitted photo##Firefighters battle a blaze at a rural Willamina home caused by fireworks.
By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Fireworks set Willamina home ablaze

West Valley Fire District personnel responded to the residence near the intersection of Buck Hollow and Willamina Creek roads about 2 p.m., but could not save the house.

Occupants set off fireworks Friday night, according to fire district spokesperson Connie Crawford Lain. Embers fell into some barkdust and smoldered through the night.

As temperatures rose into the 90s Saturday, the embers burst into flame. The fire spread quickly to the house, setting the deck ablaze first.

West Valley firefighters were joined by firefighters from Sheridan, Amity and the state Department of Forestry. They extinguished the fire, but not before it had done an estimated $50,000 to $70,000 in damage.

“The fireworks were legal, but there’s been a fireworks ban outside city limits,” Lain said. “ODF made the decision not to fine the family because it had already paid a high enough price.”

Two factors made fighting the fire extremely difficult — the method of construction and the heat.

“The house was beautifully constructed,” Lain said. “There was a tongue-and-groove vaulted ceiling.”

But she said, “There were white panels of foam that acted as insulation, and the fire got into that space. The fire just traveled along those panels, from one area to another. We ended up having to cut holes in the roof the entire length of the house.”

With the temperature climbing, the battle took a physical toll on firefighters.

“The conditions were brutal,” Lain said. “There was the heat, the fire itself. On top of that, firefighters were carrying and wearing heavy equipment.”

Small groups of firefighters were rotating on and off the fire line about every 15 minutes, Lain said. There were cases of water and sports drinks available so firefighters remained hydrated as much as possible at all times, she said.

“It was just too hot to work for a long period of time,” she said. “We were there 5 1/2 hours. We were all wearing out.”

A heat advisory remains in effect for the Yamhill Valley until midnight Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast calls for highs in the lower to mid-90s, with the heat most oppressive between 1 and 6 p.m.

Willamina’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration culminated with fireworks Saturday night, and they touched off a 10- by 20-foot grass fire. It was quickly extinguished by a West Valley brush rig.

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