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Oaks Bottom 'smoke-signals' the start of brush fire season

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - The crew of Westmorelands Fire Engine 20 fills water backpacks, before heading off to make sure all hotspots from the brushfire have been doused.On Thursday, July 11, Sellwood residents along the ridge atop Oaks Bottom spotted smoke rising from a dry, grassy section along the Springwater Trail. More than one recalled the fires that charred the area repeatedly last year – and promptly called 9-1-1 to report the blaze.

The crew of Westmoreland’s Fire Engine 20 rushed in from their Bybee Boulevard firehouse – as did Off-Road Brush Rig 18 from Multnomah Village, west of the Willamette River.

The field fire was reported to be “just north of Oaks Amusement Park” and spreading quickly.

“It started as a four-by-four-foot fire,” PF&R spokesman Firefighter A.J. Schaffer told THE BEE. “But, the wind caught it, and it extended more than thirty feet before firefighters extinguished it.”

For those familiar with the Springwater Trail, the blaze started near Mile Marker #2, in an area between the trail and the river.

An Engine 18 lieutenant at the scene said that Cottonwood “fluff” was found to be on fire along the trail and the flames spread back into the grass. “There was no immediate evidence of an ignition source; the dry grass is thick in that area.”

Just what it was that set off the Cottonwood “fluff”, which sails through the air every July in this area, remains under investigation Schaffer said.

“As we come into the hot, dry summer season,” Schaffer reminded, “A casually-discarded cigarette can spark off a blaze. Please help protect our urban wild lands by properly discarding smoking materials – and please – no campfires!”