The investigation into a July 15 brush fire that burned about 10 acres on Highway 99E between Canby and Oregon City has wrapped up, with Clackamas Fire officials determining accidental sparks from a passing vehicle to be the most likely cause.
Clack Fire investigators said Tuesday that a tractor-trailer was seen driving off the road and hitting the barrier shortly before the brush fire began near the highway last week.
Sparks from the trailer dragging on asphalt could have easily ignited the dry grass along the busy roadway, investigators said. Cigarette butts — another common firestarter — were also found in the area and may have actually been the culprit, according to officials.
Whatever the cause, fire officials know the fire started near the roadside, under the overhead transmission lines, and quickly spread uphill.
The steep terrain presented challenges in fighting the blaze, with officials ultimately calling in a contracted helicopter from McMinnville to drop water from above.
Clackamas Fire on Twitter: “The South End rd. fire continues to have smoldering/smoking spots within the burnt out area. This is common and being routinely checked on by CFD1. We are working with ODOT to maintain stability of the cliff area by not over saturating with water. Use caution in the area. pic.twitter.com/YNZhxNNBQn / Twitter”
The South End rd. fire continues to have smoldering/smoking spots within the burnt out area. This is common and being routinely checked on by CFD1. We are working with ODOT to maintain stability of the cliff area by not over saturating with water. Use caution in the area. pic.twitter.com/YNZhxNNBQn
A number of homes and farms in the immediate area were ordered to evacuate, including a premier horse breeding stable that had to temporarily relocate several million dollars worth of royal Friesians to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds.
Highway 99E was fully reopened to traffic late Thursday, though Clackamas Fire has continued to monitor the area and respond to hotspots throughout the week.
Though multiple agencies were able to quickly respond and control the blaze, fire officials have acknowledged that it could have been much worse, citing the extreme dry conditions throughout the Willamette Valley.
It has already been an unusually bad wildfire season for the state, including the massive Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon that is currently the largest in the United States.
“After last year, what is very clear is that no corner of our state is immune to fire,” Governor Kate Brown said in a press conference Tuesday, joined by state fire and emergency management officials.
“We’re seeing extensive drought conditions across the state, with 19 counties in drought emergencies. Unprecedented heat waves. And fire seasons that are arriving earlier, coming on faster and lasting for longer.”
Brown and local fire officials urge residents to be prepared for another difficult wildfire season, including having an evacuation plan and creating a defensible space around your home by removing brush and other combustible materials.
“We must be prepared — each and every one of us,” Brown said. “Last year’s historic fire season taught us that being prepared can truly be the difference between life and death. Being prepared is also one of the best ways you can help our frontline firefighters do their job.”
For more information about wildfires and how you can be ready, visit wildfire.oregon.gov. Register for emergency alerts at clackamas.us/dm/publicalerts. For non-Clackamas County residents, find your local alert system by visiting ORAlert.gov.
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