Scorches nearly 50 acres

by: Photo by Joe McHaney - A fast moving fire threatened two homes and three other structures on the hills west of Madras on July 2.

   Five structures were threatened last week when a grass fire took off and scorched nearly 50 acres on the hills west of Madras.
   A passerby called in the fire, which had started along Canyon Drive under the Burlington Northern Railroad trestle, at 3:14 p.m. July 2.
   Jefferson County Fire Marshal Tom Jaca said that the fast moving, wind-driven fire was a challenge to firefighters, due to the topography of the canyon area.
   There was no property loss, but two homes, a large barn and two outbuildings were threatened when the fire spread.
   "It wrapped around the hill," said Jaca. "We stopped it prior to the structures up behind Ahern's Market."
   The Jefferson County Fire Department arrived at the fire six minutes after the call.
   However, Jaca noted, "One engine company (was) on an alarm call in the community of Culver at the time of the tone-out, which increased the response time for appropriate apparatus to respond."
   With mutual aid assistance from the Crooked River Ranch Fire Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Hotshots, the fire department secured the scene in just over five hours. A total of 46 firefighters worked on the fire, with five brush engines, four support vehicles, two water tenders, one structure engine and a rescue vehicle.
   The fire is still under investigation, but Jaca said it was started by fireworks, which continued to cause problems all week.
   "There was a lot of calls handled by law enforcement due to illegal fireworks and we actually had three small fires started by illegal fireworks on July 4," he said.
   "With the warm temperatures that we have ahead of us, conditions will be getting worse for fire, and people need to be more careful," he added.
   Jaca reminded county residents that open burning is not allowed. "We're in summer burning restrictions -- approved burn barrels only (with covers) from sun up to 10 a.m.," he said.
   Should a fire get away from someone who is burning outside the restrictions, Jaca said, it would be considered reckless burning, and the person could be liable for the cost of property damage and fire suppression.
   The same applies for those using illegal fireworks. "The responsibility of their action falls on them," he said. "Any damage to any property caused by illegal fireworks becomes the responsibility of the person lighting the fireworks."
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