Officials: Quartzville blaze after rain reminder that fire season still here

Sean C. Morgan

Oregon Department of Forestry Sweet Home Unit, local landowners and a Weyerhaueser helicopter got to work quickly Thursday evening, Sept. 7, after a lightning strike lit up a hill along the Quartzville Corridor and kept it at about half an acre.

The fire was located on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property about 2½ miles off Quartzville Road along Trout Creek Road, said Neil Miller, forest protection supervisor with the ODF Sweet Home Unit. Firefighters responded at about 5:30 p.m.

The ODF sent four engines and 10 personnel to the fire, who worked on it until about 11 p.m., Miller said. The helicopter ran a full fuel cycle, dipping into Green Peter Reservoir for water to drop on the fire.

The Sweet Home Unit left one engine and three firefighters on scene overnight, Miller said. The fire was officially contained and in mop-up status Friday.

About an hour before the fire report, Linn County had between 100 and 150 lightning strikes associated with a rain storm, Miller said. Most of the strikes had a lot of rain and hail fall on them, but this one was about 10 miles west of the storm, a rogue lightning strike in an area that received no rain.

The Sweet Home Unit measured .07 inches of rain at the ODF office during the storm, Miller said. Fuels remain dry locally.

“We are still in high fire danger and Industrial Fire Precaution Level III,” Miller said, emphasizing that at no point should anyone take chances and burn anything right now.

Forecasts show warm, dry weather continuing this week, Miller said, and firefighters will be watching for sleepers left over from the storm.

Private landowners found two or three strikes but no fires last week while they and ODF crews scoured the woods, Miller said.

The Trout Creek Road fire was the 92nd call for the Sweet Home Unit this fire season, Miller said. Most of about the last 15 calls have been for regulated use violations.

“I think there’s been a heightened sense of awareness,” Miller said, and people are calling in when they see weed eaters, mowers and chainsaws in use during restricted hours. Fire officials have been warning and educating people violating the regulations, which allow mowing and use of chainsaws before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

The Trout Creek Road fire is the largest so far in the Sweet Home Unit, which protects BLM and private timber in the Sweet Home area. The next largest was a fire measuring about 100 square feet two weeks ago east of Sweet Home off Highway 20. That fire was caused by a mower, which was destroyed by the fire.

The Sweet Home Unit responded with the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District to a fire on Ridgeway Road earlier in the week.

Tuesday morning, Sept. 5, at about 11:35 a.m., a truck caught a communication wire, broke and pulled down a power pole, causing a fire that burned about 25 square feet, Miller said. The landowner put out the fire.

The crash knocked out power to 969 Sweet Home customers. Pacific Power restored power to all but 50 by 12:12 p.m., and the final customer’s power was restored by 5:48 p.m.