A West Hills Road property owner’s tiller helped contain a burn pile that grew out of control and scorched approximately 2.4 acres on a windy Thursday afternoon, Philomath Fire & Rescue reported.
Firefighters responded at 1:19 p.m. April 27 to the site, located behind a house in the 2800 block of West Hills Road. Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Rich Saalsaa said a burn pile had escaped its confines because of blustery wind conditions. Contributing to the fire, Saalsaa added, were dead vegetation remaining on the ground from the winter months along with warmer weather that dried out the grasses.
“Access was an issue as the field was inaccessible due to the railroad tracks on the south side and wetlands to the north,” Saalsaa said. “Crews had to walk into the area with hand tools to begin putting the fire out without water.”
The property owner brought in a small tiller, which Saalsaa said was used to help surround the fire and eventually contained it.
Philomath Fire & Rescue responded with an engine crew, two brush crews, a water tender and two officers — Fire Chief Chancy Ferguson as incident commander and Saalsaa as the safety officer. The Oregon Department of Forestry and Corvallis Fire assisted at the scene. The fire was upgraded to a second alarm at one point to get more crews on the scene, Saalsaa said.
Monroe Fire sent a crew to Philomath’s main station to cover other calls. The operation took about 2-1/2 hours.
“It’s only been a couple of days of warmer weather without rain and things dry out very quickly, particularly with the wind,” Saalsaa said. “We are receiving many burning permit requests given the drier weather.”
Saalsaa said the fire district is asking people “to be sure that the burn piles are away from dry grasses, that there is water on hand — or sand/dirt and a shovel — and that the fires are always attended.”
Saalsaa said that in the case of the West HIlls Road fire on Thursday, the burn piles were small but too close to dead grasses.
“With the wind, the embers carried to the grasses and ran up the creek — full of dead cattails — and then into the dry field,” he added. “It only took a short while for the fire to go out of control.”