Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
FIREFIGHTERS put water on the burn area during mop-up on Experiment Station Drive Thursday morning after ERS employees did the initial knock-down, according to witnesses.
As of Friday, August 24, 2018
Firefighters responded to three nearly-simultaneous fires on Thursday morning in Hood River and the east side of the valley.
The first was a grass fire on Experiment Station Drive just over the bank from Excavator Rental Service (ERS) next to Tucker Road at about 9:30 a.m.
Within about an hour, Wy’East Fire District firefighters were called out to two separate fires: An agricultural burn fire at Mason Road just north of Pine Grove at 10:15 a.m., and a small grass fire at 11:20 a.m. near the Mt. View Forest Products mill on Booth Hill Road, east of Odell.
“The fire severity is so high,” said Wy’East chief Greg Borton. “It’s really, really dry, and a little spark can start a fire. We are in peak fire season and the way things are going, it will keep going at least until October.”
All three fires were quickly quelled and damaged no structures.
On the Experiment Station fire, firefighters and ERS employees teamed up to stop it at about 40-by-200 feet.
“Our guys really got to it,” said Ruthie Nye of ERS. “About 10 of us got out there and moved equipment out of the way and the picked up shovels and started putting out the fire. It was mostly out by the time the fire department arrived,” she said.
The fire caused a 20-minute power outage to about 1,600 customers on the Heights and areas south of Hood River. The Oregon State University Experiment Station complex, fed by a different line, was out for about an hour. Wind conditions had been gusty all morning.
Pacific Power officials said the line was knocked down by a fallen tree located 100 or so yards north on Experiment Station Drive. It yanked the line loose at the pole at Tucker Road and threw sparks onto dry grass.
No ERS equipment was damaged, though flames had started to make contact with tractors and diggers before the crew pulled them away, Nye said.
“It was kind of scary. You could see flames jump up when the sparks fell and then it started burning the pole,” said Keely Stawicki, owner of Bend in the Road directly across Tucker Road from the fire.
No one was hurt in the fire. Hood River Fire Department and West Side fire departments responded and thoroughly hosed down the area. West Side’s Tucker Road station, just west of the fire, was among those places that lost power.
“The grass is pretty dry and with the wind coming from the west, it might have pushed it down into the brush and trees and it might have gotten away,” Stawicki said. “The (ERS) guys and the fire department got right on it.”
The Mason Road ag burn pile happened on Kennedy family orchard land near Highway 35. An agricultural burn ban is in effect, and Borton said the pile had not been ignited, but apparently caught fire by spontaneous combustion. Wy’East firefighters responded with the Brush truck and doused the fire before it spread.
On Booth Hill Road, Wy’East and Parkdale helped put out a 100-by-150 area in a rock pit located a half-mile east of the mill. The fire started in a slash pile, but Borton said unauthorized trash dumping may have been involved. The fire is under investigation by Oregon Department of Forestry and United States Forest Service, who responded along with Bureau of Land Management and Columbia Gorge Scenic Area.