Philomath Fire & Rescue began its day on Saturday by responding to a fire at the Interfor sawmill on North 19th Street and then contributed resources to a wildfire near Southwest 69th Street and Philomath Boulevard.
Fire crews from various districts responded to both fires and in the end, both were brought under control with no injuries and no damage to any structures.
“It was an interesting day to say the least,” Philomath Fire & Rescue Chief Tom Miller said.
The local fire department was dispatched to the sawmill fire in the 1800 block of Industrial Way at 8:25 a.m.
“We got a call about one of the log stacks on fire at the mill there and so when I rolled up on scene, I saw 10-foot flame lengths coming out of one of the log stacks there next to 19th Street,” Miller said.
The operation to extinguish the blaze turned out to be challenging from a logistical standpoint.
“The start of the fire was basically the decomposition underneath from the old bark and such,” Miller said. “So they had to get a bunch of log movers in there to dig down to the bottom of the barrel so we could get to the seat of the fire, so that operation took a while.”
Asked about a possible cause, Miller said, “It just appeared to be spontaneous combustion.”
Philomath Fire & Rescue had its full fleet of equipment there with help from Corvallis, Monroe and the Oregon Department of Forestry. In all, Miller estimated the number of personnel on scene as 17 at the peak of the operation.
The Blodgett-Summit Rural Fire District covered the Philomath district during those hours, which continued until about 2 p.m.
North 19th Street did need to be closed for about 30 minutes, Miller estimated, because of a fire hose laid down across the road.
Miller reported no injuries or property damage.
Not long after returning to Station 201, another call came out on a significant wildfire in the Corvallis Fire District. Philomath was dispatched on the second alarm at 2:49 p.m.
“It actually came out of a smoke investigation originally and then Corvallis got out there and it was a large wildland fire,” Miller said. “It was about 5 acres by the time we got it put out.”
The fire ignited in an undeveloped lot in the 7200 block of Southwest 69th Street, which is on the north side of Philomath Boulevard just past Southwest Country Club Drive.
“There’s a lot of dead brush piles in there, slash piles, and there was a lot of dead stuff burning on the ground,” Miller said. “We were really worried about it burning up to the tree line but we were successful in stopping before it got there.”
In addition to Corvallis and Philomath, other agencies responding included Polk County, Tangent, Adair and Monroe fire districts as well as ODF. Philomath sent a tender, two brush trucks and an engine and the personnel included Miller and Deputy Fire Chief Chancy Ferguson.
“They evacuated that whole neighborhood there at the bottom, all of that 71st Street area,” Miller said. “I think what I heard was 10 homes — I know the police were doing that when I drove up. They got there pretty fast.”
The Corvallis Police Department and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office were handling the law enforcement end of the response.
Philomath Boulevard was closed for a period of time — Miller estimated about an hour at the most.
During the operation, Miller said the fire agencies went so far as to check the availability of a helicopter and a bulldozer to assist but in the end, they were not needed, at least during the time Philomath personnel were part of the response.
Miller said he left the scene at around 6 p.m.
“Nobody got hurt and there was no property loss as far as structures or anything,” Miller said. “They kept it contained to that vacant lot, thank goodness.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
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