Photo: Forest Grove Fire & Rescue
GLENWOOD – Multiple agencies, including Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Banks Fire District 13, and prison crews from South Fork Forest Camp and more responded to a motor home fire along Highway 6 that sparked a small brush fire near Gales Creek Camp Thursday morning.
Forest Grove Fire & Rescue was first dispatched to the fire, which started about 3/4 of a mile west of the Timber Road junction, at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, August 1.
Crews arrived to find a motor home fully engulfed in flames and already spreading to the adjoining forested area it was parked next to.
Meanwhile, at the nearby Gales Creek Camp, a camp for children with type 1 diabetes, camp staff were moving children away from the fire, which was close to the entrance of the camp on NW Cedarbrook Lane.
“We moved all the kids to the back of the camp while the fire department handled it,” said Rob Dailey, executive director of the nonprofit Gales Creek Camp Foundation for Children with Diabetes, which runs the camp.
Dailey said that at no point was the camp directly threatened by the burning motor home or subsequent brush fire.
According to a media release from Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, firefighters made a quick attack on the flames to start putting out the burning motor home, and with the arrival of additional resources from neighboring fire agencies, were able to quickly gain the upper hand against the fire.
With crews fighting the fire alongside the Wilson River Highway, emergency personnel asked the Oregon Department of Transportation to close the highway to allow crews to safely work in the area.
For about two hours, the highway was entirely closed to traffic; at press time, one lane, controlled by an ODOT flagger, was opened.
With an on-foot reporter on the scene, Highway 6 was a snarled mess of traffic, with vehicles turning around and jumping into the other lane.
Recreational vehicles, trucks pulling off-road vehicles bound for Brown’s Camp and off-road vehicles bound for the Sand Lake Recreation Area all were attempting to reverse course, meaning both lanes on the east side of the road closure were stop-and-go as vehicles paused to allow fellow motorists space to turn around.
Journal reporters could not access the west side of the closure.
The motor home was a complete loss, and torched an additional area of 100 by 50 feet of trees and bushes.
The cause of the blaze is being investigated; no one was injured during the fire.
“This is a good reminder that it area forests are dry and fires can easily spread. Most fires in Northwest Oregon are caused by humans, so take extra precautions when out in the forests or traveling through them. Remember, one less spark, one less fire,” a statement from Forest Grove Fire & Rescue read.
In addition to Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Banks Fire District 13, the Cornelius Fire Department, Gaston Rural Fire Protection District, ODOT, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Forest Grove Unit and crews from the joint ODF and Oregon Department of Corrections South Fork Forest Camp, a prison facility located in the Tillamook State Forest, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office all helped on scene.
All told, 33 personnel from various agencies assisted on the fire.
‘Wildfires are burning near roads’ says ODOT
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, wildfires along roadsides are becoming increasingly common throughout the state as August nears.
“You may find reduced visibility due to smoke and active fires near the highway, and experience delays,” said Darrin Neavoll, ODOT District 7 maintenance manager in Southwest Oregon. “When driving through smoky fire zones, make sure your headlights are on and you’re watching for firefighters and equipment, not taking pictures.”
According to ODOT, grass along the highways they maintain is very dry, and warn motorists that it is easy for a spark to find purchase in the dry tinder-like material.
ODOT mows along highways they maintain to reduce the risk of wildfire, such as Highway 6, while Washington County Land Use and Transportation mows along local county roads to reduce wildfire risk and improve visibility.
ODOT says there are a few practices drivers can utilize to avoid sparking a roadside fire or how to deal with one when encountered:
— If there’s smoke, turn on your headlights and slow down
— If you can’t see, carefully pull to the side of the road
— If pulling a trailer, make sure nothing is dragging that can spark or overheat
— Keep your vehicle well-maintained so it doesn’t overheat or get a flat tire
— Don’t throw things out of your vehicle – like a lit cigarette
— Carry an emergency kit with extra water, food and medications
— Know your route and possible detours
— Pay attention – you need to drive, not take pictures. Especially when there’s a fire