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Friday forest fire reminder of real dangers

2-acre blaze ignited over weekend during height of fire season


by: SCAPPOOSE RURAL FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT - Fire crews were able to contain this 2-acre forest fire in Scappoose before it was able to spread toward nearby homes.A forest fire in Scappoose gave nearby residents a scare Sept. 14, but was contained before damaging any homes.

It was a typical fire for this time of year in the Columbia County area, said Mike Simek, unit forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry. The county rarely sees the large fires that plague other parts of Oregon and Washington, but routinely deals with a smattering of 1-acre and 2-acre blazes.

However, Simek cautioned, “It’s all time and place.”

“We have the potential for large fires,” he added. “I think a lot of people in the county don’t realize that.”

Late August through September is the height of the fire season in Columbia County. If the wind, the terrain, the weather or the timing of the 9-1-1 call had been any different, Simek said firefighters could have been facing a much bigger blaze at the clearcut site near Holaday Road last week.

The over 2-acre fire was likely human-caused, but it is not clear yet if it was an accident or arson, Simek said.

“I would lean toward accidental right now,” he said, adding that turn-off areas near the clearcut where the fire burned were littered with trash and cigarette butts.

The fire began in the evening on land owned by Longview Timber near 30869 Holaday Road and damaged young trees, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. Fire crews continued to monitor it for hot spots over the weekend. By Saturday, crews were in “mop-up mode,” Simek said.

According to Ronda Melton, spokesperson for the Scappoose Rural Fire Protection District, the nearest homes were roughly a quarter of a mile away from the fire and never in any real danger. Fire engines were diverted to protect them in case the fire spread. One homeowner decided to take the precaution of evacuating horses and goats.

“From our perspective, it was not that difficult,” Simek said about the fire. It occurred on a small site, the land was level, there were good access roads on nearly every side, and no big logs or other potential large sources of fuel beyond grass and small slash piles.

The firefighting efforts drew on resources from across the county, including the Scappoose fire crews, Columbia River Fire and Rescue, several ODF fire engines and firefighters, as well as two fire fighting crews from ODF’s South Fork Camp near Tillamook.

“For a 2-acre fire, that was a big response,” Simek said.

If you have information regarding the fire, you can contact the Oregon Department of Forestry at 503-397-2636 and leave a message for Mike Simek.