Agencies rally to fight 40-acre wildland fire
The blaze burned through timberland and a clearcut lying just south of the West Valley. It did not threaten any structures.
Sheridan firefighters, dispatched about 1:30 p.m., arrived to find a relatively small brush fire burning estimated to be 40-by-80 feet in size. However, winds gusting to 25 mph fanned the flames, causing them to spread quickly.
“About all we could do was watch it take off,” fire district spokesman Wes Rolfson said.
The Amity, Southwest Polk County — Dallas — and West Valley — Willamina — fire districts responded to the mutual aid call, along with the McMinnville Fire Department and Oregon Department of Forestry. A bulldozer was used to dig a fire line and a helicopter to drop water.
Forty-five firefighters responded with 15 pieces of equipment. They brought the blaze under control about 5:30.
Crews were still on scene at 7:30. They weren’t expected to clear until 9:30 or 10.
The party who reported the fire said it had been touched off inadvertently during a target shooting outing.
“This incident highlights the increased fire conditions we currently are facing,” Rolfson said. “This summer is expected to be an extraordinarily dry one, due to the low amount of rainfall and snowpack.”
He urged individuals traveling into the brush or woods to be keenly aware of fire conditions and the danger those conditions pose.
Sheridan firefighters also responded to a weekend brush fire east of town on DeJong Road. Meanwhile, the neighboring West Valley Fire District knocked down a grass fire alongside Grand Ronde Road, near its Grand Ronde substation.
Yamhill firefighters responded Monday morning to a reported wildland fire estimated to be 40-by-60 feet in size west of Yamhill in the Rockyford Road area.
This pattern repeated itself throughout the state over the weekend, because of unseasonably warm weather following a prolonged dry spell.
The Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center found itself battling a 168-acre wildfire ignited by a downed power line. Dubbed the Burgess Road Fire, it began about 2 p.m. Saturday and spread quickly, fanned by the wind.
Structures were threatened in La Pine’s Crescent Creek Subdivision. They had to be evacuated for a time, but residents were allowed to return Saturday night.
A downed power line also ignited a seven-acre fire two miles northeast of the Crane Prairie Reservoir. A tree blown over by strong winds brought it down.
The fire was declared fully contained Sunday morning, though crews were still mopping up hotspots.
“Early May is typically not the time we start worrying about fire,” said the Department of Forestry’s fire prevention coordinator, Tom Fields. “But with the lack of moisture, and no real relief in sight, now is the time to start making fire prevention a priority,” he said.
Fields says fire prevention works together with spring cleaning around homes with wildland exposure. Warm spring weather is the perfect time to clean up around the home, making it less vulnerable to wildfire during the hot, dry summer.
Clean-up is often followed by disposal, which sometimes includes the burning of woody debris. Fire professionals have some advice to offer:
n Consider alternatives like chipping or hauling to a landfill.
n Call your local fire authority in advance to see if a permit is required.
n Have a shovel and hose at the ready.
n Avoid burning during windy conditions.
n Scrape down to mineral soil around incinerators or debris piles.
n Divide large piles into smaller ones, as they burn more quickly and efficiently, and are easier to manage.
n Stay with the fire until it is completely extinguished.
n In the event your debris burn escapes control, call 911 immediately.
To keep aware of current conditions and regulations, visit www.oregon.gov/odf. To get additional fire prevention information, visit www.keeporegongreen.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.