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The county's firefighters are saving the day

The work of firefighters around Washington County over recent days and weeks has been nothing short of heroic. With the region baking under extreme heat most of this summer and with unusually dry conditions throughout the Northwest, fire crews have been on heightened alert.

In late August, there were several wildfires that could have turned much more serious if not for the swift and effective action by firefighters around Washington County.

For example, on Aug. 20, sparks from a tractor started a grass fire on the Dimeo Farms property on Southwest Tongue Lane, between Hillsboro and Cornelius. In this fire, an incredibly swift response — witnesses reported fire crews from Hillsboro arrived within three minutes of the emergency call going out, with firefighters from Cornelius and Washington County Fire District 2 also very soon on the scene — limited what could have been a difficult blaze to contain to roughly just half an acre in size.

That’s remarkable, given the tinder-dry conditions. Dave Dimeo, owner of Dimeo Farms, said the field “just exploded like gasoline, it’s so dry.”

Two days later, near Forest Grove, another grass fire broke out around noon near the intersection of Northwest Orchardale Road and Parsons Road after a homeowner cut down a tree that fell into power lines. The resulting sparking in the lines caused fires half a mile away, but firefighters from Forest Grove Fire & Rescue contained the situation quickly.

Forest Grove’s firefighters had little time for a break, as just about three hours after working on the Aug. 22 fire caused by the sparking power lines, a much larger fire erupted about 10 miles west of Banks on the south side of Highway 26. Fed by strong winds, the fire burned through Saturday night and grew to about 40 acres in size by Sunday evening, Aug. 23. 

In addition to firefighters from Forest Grove and Banks, teams from several jurisdictions, including the Oregon Department of Forestry and inmate crews, joined the fray. Personnel and equipment from Stimson Lumber and Weyerhaeuser also helped in the battle.

Earlier this month, firefighters with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue found themselves engaged with a very unusual fire in Sherwood, which started on the afternoon of Aug. 10. A 600-foot long, 50-foot tall wooden railroad trestle in a field off Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road that had been in place for 85 years burned to the ground, and about eight acres of a wetlands area also burned.

During this effort, one TVFR firefighter was injured when he was pinned by shifting railroad timbers, and a chain saw was required to free him. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt. But it points to the many risks these men and women face every time they go out on a call, and wildfires can be especially unpredictable.

Yet even facing all these challenges, the fast response by emergency personnel, coupled with effective firefighting strategies, kept these blazes from getting further out of control — no small feat, given the conditions.

Beyond answering the bell at a moment’s notice, many of our area firefighters also volunteer to tackle dangerous fires elsewhere around the United States, because in this summer of burning landscapes across the West, the ranks of trained firefighters have been spread thin.

The men and women who put themselves in jeopardy to help douse these fires are saving lives and protecting homes. They deserve special thanks and recognition for all they do to protect people and property here in Washington County and elsewhere.