Last week may have been a preview of what hot dry weather has in store for us during the balance of 2013. On June 11, a large grass fire broke out in White City on Avenue H. The call came around 2 p. m. and though the fire was just a short distance from the fire station, a large parcel of dry grass burned at an alarming rate. Though no structure was threatened, the fire burned rapidly, fanned by strong winds.
Fortunately, this fire appeared to have begun in the middle of a very large grassy field and the winds drove it toward Avenue H, which proved to be an effective barrier to the spread of flames. In the middle of the field sat a tractor, which may have been the cause of the fire, either from hot exhaust or from a spark from a mower striking an object in the field.
On the same day, a fire at Highway 234 and Antioch Road burned very close to buildings before consuming approximately ½ acre of dry grass. This incident was another stroke of fortune for fire fighters in that the wind also drove the flames to a driveway that prevented the fire from spreading. According to Fire District #3 Public Information Officer, Don Hickman, the cause was not known at press time.
This fire began between buildings and burned right up to the outbuilding behind the gas station and towards a mobile home on the same property. It burned to the base of one of the buildings, but the fire moved through so rapidly that the buildings were spared.
Both fires could have been much worse, had the situation been just a little different. But the good thing about these fires and a string of others that have occurred recently is that they should serve as warning of what Fire District #3 and Oregon Department of Forestry are saying is a year with the potential for serious fire danger. An unusually dry winter, coupled with winds, is drying out the soils and vegetation. Fire District #3 is experiencing more fires this year than they did in a similar period during the last few years.
Warnings are just that, unless a person does something to reduce the potential by working on their property to reduce the possibility. If you live on rural property, a firebreak around your property can be a real life saver. Also, keeping brush away from structures can mean the difference in losing buildings or having a fire sweep through like the one near the Triple Tree last Tuesday. Fire retardant plants also help, as does a well watered lawn.
Fires will happen this year, of this there is little doubt. Spending a little time now to prevent the spread will pay big dividends to homeowners. If you have questions about fire safety, contact Fire District #3 at (541) 826-7100 for information.