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Fire chars part of Indian Creek Trail

Neighbors knock down blaze with hoses

Philip Stenberg puts water on the Indian Creek Trail fire that broke out just below his Union Street home.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
Philip Stenberg puts water on the Indian Creek Trail fire that broke out just below his Union Street home.

A ground fire along Indian Creek is under investigation after it flared along the popular Indian Creek trail Thursday afternoon, with no damage to property.

The fire was limited to a 30-yard strip, up to 15 feet across, on the south side of the trail. It damaged a telephone pole and pine tree before neighbors knocked the flames down. No utility lines were affected. The fire happened two blocks east of 12th Street, where the trail drops below Union Street, adjacent to the Pacific Power substation.

A total of about 10 personnel from Hood River Fire and EMS, West Side Fire, and the U.S. Forest Service responded within minutes to the 3:15 p.m. incident.

But it was the quick response of neighbors that kept the fire at bay.

“I had just come home from work. So much for a relaxing hour or so before heading back,” said Philip Stenberg, who with his brother, Andrew, gathered up garden hoses and hurried down the 20-foot embankment from their home, 921 Union, overlooking the trail. Their mother, Helen, fed the hoses down the bank and got the water turned on. Also helping were Tad Johnston and his wife Jacque, who live one door west on Union.

Philip said he had just pulled up at the house when he noticed smoke on the other side of the house, facing the trail. He alerted Andrew and Helen, and they had water on the fire within minutes.

“We have a lot of hoses because we don’t like to have to carry them around,” Helen joked. But the concern over the fire was serious, as the threatened pine tree could have spread flames to the home.

“It had us pretty worried,” Helen said. The family remembered a fire in September 2001 at the same location along the trail. That time it climbed the bank and charred the corner of the house before firefighters put it out. A few years later, there was a fire in the old wooden water pipe just a few yards up the trail, an apparent act of mischief.

Capt. Manuel Irusta said he could not yet determine the cause, but noted that the wind from the west was strong Thursday afternoon, so the investigation would start at that edge of the burned area. Charred debris in the ravine included old metal cans and chunks of creosote utility poles. In quelling the fire and dousing hot spots, the fire crew used water but abstained from foam to prevent it getting into Indian Creek, which runs just below the area of the fire.

One of the unique features of the Indian Creek Trail is that remnants of the three-foot-diameter wooden pipeline are visible for a mile or so along the trail, starting just east of the Stenbergs’. The pipe supplied water to the Diamond Fruit Cannery in the early 20th century. Thursday’s fire burned brush around the concrete remains of the headworks, which filtered water before it left an open canal from Indian Creek and entered the pipeline. The headworks was decommissioned decades ago and until about 10 years ago the structure had a chain link fence around it and was covered by a wooden roof. The concrete, and three large but immobilized hand wheels, are still in place.

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