Fast action quenches Powell Butte wildfire

Find out why this fire could have been much worse, had firefighters not promptly put out this field aflame …

Residents in the Centennial neighborhood were hoping that this grass fire would catch buildings on fire and cause destruction like the Meadowland Dairy fire last year. East Portland News archive image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Those who remember the “Meadowland Dairy” fire on February 1 of  last year breathed a sigh of relief, when firefighters from both Portland and Gresham converged to swiftly put out a brush fire on Powell Butte in outer East Portland on September 12.

“Fire crews were dispatched to a grass fire on Powell Butte at 7:30 p.m.,” Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Public Information Officer Ron Rouse told East Portland News.

Brush fires in wildland areas spread quickly, as did this fire two weeks earlier, in Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. East Portland News archive image

“The wildland fire was reportedly 50′ x 50′, but when PF&R Station 31 arrived minutes later, the wind-aided fire had spread to 150 ‘ x 150’,” Rouse said.

Calling in PF&R Brush Units 18, 29, and 10 to help was a necessity – because only trails, not roads, were available to access the burning area. “Mill Park Truck 7 and Gresham Fire Station 73 crews also responded, and shuttled water to the Brush Units.”

The fire was declared under control 45 minutes late, and no one was injured during the incident.

Specialized training and equipment help Portland firefighters contain, then quench grass fires in the wildland/urban interface. East Portland News archive image

Looking it over the next day, Powell Butte’s on-site caretaker Kevin Duff told Tim Hall at Portland Water Bureau that the burned area ended up being about 175’ x 150’.

“It was at the southern end of the trail, near Johnson Creek,” Hall said. “The caretaker said he believed someone may have lit a ‘warming fire’ and it got out of hand. It was quite some distance away from the Reservoir construction area atop the butte.”

However, a PF&R Investigator was called to the scene to determine a cause, Rouse added, and the findings have yet to be released.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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