Firefighters take down first blaze of the season

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

July 19, 2006

Claire Griffin was horrified when landscapers working at her Westcliff Drive home reported that a wildfire was raging in a neighboring lot on Monday afternoon.

“When those guys knocked on my door I almost fell over myself trying to call 9-1-1,” she said.

By the time Griffin reached the emergency dispatch center shortly after 3:30 p.m., another caller had already reported the flames — and help was on the way.

“They were incredible; they had so many guys here so quickly,” said Griffin.

West Side Fire District took the lead in extinguishing flames that spread rapidly through the dry underbrush in the vacant lot. Also joining the effort was manpower from the City of Hood River, the U.S. Forest Service National Scenic Area Office, and Oregon Department of Forestry.

Within minutes, about 25 firefighters had dug a trench around the smoldering area. And within 30 minutes, the blaze that blackened about two-tenths of an acre had been fully contained and a mop-up operation was underway.

“The topography here sheltered the area from the wind and that really helped,” said West Side Fire Marshal Jim Trammell.

He said the cause of the blaze is under investigation. However, the rapid spread of the first wildfire in 2006 has underscored the need to shut down outdoor burning. He said no fires will be allowed in Hood River County between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15.

Trammell said the proactive step is being taken by area fire departments to eliminate all possible threats during the dry season.

He said outdoors burns can still take place until the end of July from 6 to 11 a.m. only — and all fires should be closely monitored.

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