By News-Register staff • 

Grand Ronde blaze consumes storage yard, outbuildings

Photos courtesy Sheridan/Southwest Polk/West Valley fire districts##A storage yard and outbuildings burned along Highway 18 in Grand Ronde Wednesday afternoon.
Photos courtesy Sheridan/Southwest Polk/West Valley fire districts##A storage yard and outbuildings burned along Highway 18 in Grand Ronde Wednesday afternoon.

GRAND RONDE - Eight agencies and about 50 firefighters responded to a multi-alarm blaze Wednesday afternoon that consumed a storage yard and two outbuildings along a two-mile stretch of Highway 18 in Polk County, just west of where the highway intersects with Grand Ronde Road.

The Sheridan/Southwest Polk/West Valley fire districts, which now form one agency, responded shortly before 3:30 to a report of multiple fires along the highway, according to Deputy Chief Damon Schulze, who went to work for the district starting July 15 after 28 years with the McMinnville Fire Department.

Multiple calls were received by the Yamhill Communications Agency 911 center stating that the fires were spreading. Four fires had ignited in light brush on the north side of the highway, Schulze said.

"Our biggest concern was how many fires were there," he said. "We were kind of on a search and destroy mission."

Schulze said he was en route to the call and had just passed the Highway 18/22 interchange when he saw a black cloud of smoke to the west and immediately realized the severity of the blaze.

Contents of the storage yard, which Schulze estimated to be 65-by-150 feet in size and housed industrial-type items, in addition to the two outbuildings, were destroyed. He said he was uncertain what all was contained in the structures, but a number of tires were consumed by flames.

Jim's Trading Post, which was scheduled to close several months ago, was not damaged, according to Schulze.

Russ and Lillian Hosley, the son and widow of the business’s namesake, Jim Hosley, sold the business. A new owner was expected to offer storage space, but the structure was no longer going to be a location where visitors could purchase books or other items. The Trading Post operated since 1968.

Multiple brush units and water tenders were requested when the first arriving units realized there were several fires and the flames were spreading. Amity Fire District, McMinnville Fire Department, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue/Lincoln City, Oregon Department of Forestry and Polk County Fire District No. 1/Independence assisted the local district.

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde responded with its Natural Resources Department personnel.

Highway 18 was entirely closed for about an hour before one lane of traffic was opened. The Polk and Yamhill County Sheriff's Office, Grand Ronde Tribal police and Oregon State Police all assisted with traffic control. The Oregon Department of Transportation also sent a crew.

"This demonstrated the ability and the need to work together," Schulze said. "We're fortunate for the relationships we have."

It's believed one passing vehicle was responsible for starting all four fires, and the vehicle likely had a poorly maintained exhaust system, according to Schulze.

The Yamhill County Fire Investigation Team and State Fire Marshal's office worked to determine a cause.

A fire crew responded early Thursday morning when a caller reported seeing areas at the scene that were smoldering. 


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