Carelessly-discarded cig ignites Lents’ Springwater Trail wildfire

Find out why this blaze was hard to reach – and, learn about the extra effort firefighters made to protect the lives of ‘special residents’ of this natural urban area …

Portland Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief’s car helps light the wildland area east of the Springwater Trail, in the far west corner of the Lents Neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When wildfire erupted in the “natural area” east of the Springwater Trail in the Lents Neighborhood, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews had to solve multiple problems.

First, the initial 9-1-1 call at 9:54 p.m. reported the fire’s location as being near 8801 SE Flavel Street in outer East Portland– a considerable distance from what turned out to be the fire’s actual location, some 100 feet south of SE Lambert Street.

The wind-whipped wildfire takes off quickly. Urei Tropets, Sherrett Studios photo

And, where the Springwater Trail cuts cross-country – from SE 82nd Avenue, heading diagonally northeast, to where it crosses the 8500 block of SE Lambert Street – there is no street access.

“Still, Engine 11 was on-scene about five minutes after the call,” reported PF&R spokesman Lt. Michael Silva. “They reported a large fire.”

A firefighter engineer from PF&R Engine 11 keeps the hose lines full, pumping thousands of gallons of water to crew members maintaining the fire line.

With the wind blowing briskly to the south, commanders and crews decided to use the Springwater Trail as a defendable fire line, Silva told East Portland News, and then just let the fire burn itself out.

From Powellhurst-Gilbert’s Station 29, Engine 29, and the station’s “Brush Rig”, also rolled to aid firefighting, and to help contain the quickly-spreading fire.

“Another factor in fighting this fire,” Silva continued, “was that there were several paths leading off the Springwater Trail, toward trees where homeless people have camps set up.”

Along with fighting this blaze, crews also fought their way through smoke and fire to locate those living nearby in homeless encampments. . Urei Tropets, Sherrett Studios photo

Firefighters jogged down those paths, alerting people residing in the area to the impending danger if the wind shifted. “They evacuated the homeless, to make sure their lives were not endangered.”

When crews finally left the area, a few minutes before midnight, the fire had charred a 250’ by 100’ area. “No structures were endangered,” Silva added.

The fire’s cause?

“Investigators determined that his fire was started by carelessly discarded lit cigarette.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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