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Sunday truck fire blocks Scappoose-Vernonia Road

Fire spreads to small patch of brush, which was quickly extinguished


by: PHOTO COURTESY OF SCAPPOOSE RURAL FIRE DISTRICT - Scappoose Rural Fire District crews were able to extinguish the truck fire within half an hour, but the road remained closed for about an hour, said SRFD Division Chief Jeff Pricher.A motorist and passenger traveling on Scappoose-Vernonia Road Sunday, March 23, were forced to stop and exit their truck after realizing its bed, loaded with hay, was fully ablaze.

The Scappoose Rural Fire District responded to the vehicle fire near Gunners Lake Sunday at about 5:30 p.m. SRFD Division Chief Jeff Pricher said the hay in the bed of the pickup truck caught fire while the motorist was traveling up a hill. Pricher said the fire caused no injuries, but totaled the truck.

“That was an unlucky set of circumstances for the individuals who owned that vehicle,” Pricher said. “It was a combination of climbing a hill, the location and not necessarily realizing the truck was on fire when it was.”

Pricher said he did not know the make or year of the truck, but noted it was an “older GMC or Chevy.” Being an early model, Pricher said the vehicle experienced a mechanical breakdown which caused either the fuel or oil to catch fire.

“It started in the undercarriage of the vehicle, below or near where the motor was at,” Pricher said, adding the fire gradually travelled to the back of the truck, igniting the bed full of dry hay.

Radiant heat from the truck fire also ignited a small brush fire 20 feet from the vehicle, Pricher said. Crews were able to extinguish both fires within 30 minutes and the incident blocked Scappoose-Vernonia Road for about an hour, he added.

Pricher said crews had to spread the hay all over the road to ensure the fire was extinguished since the inside of some bales could still remain hot even after flames were put out.

The Scappoose Rural Fire District was assisted by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District, which assisted with traffic control.

Pricher said the district is expecting a more severe fire season than last year, based on predictions from the National Interagency Fire Center that indicate a warm, dry summer. He noted individuals should be cautious of surrounding natural areas with dry, combustable fuels.

While the area has been hit with a significant amount of rain, Pricher said it hasn’t quite been enough to provide natural fuels with the hydration needed to prevent fire. He added that wildfires along the Oregon coast, which sparked up in late January, are rare in the state and indicate severe conditions for the coming months.

“As we get close to warmer months, the community needs to keep a close eye on woodlands to make sure, if they see smoke, to give us a call,” Pricher said.

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