Fire destroyed one mobile home, heavily damaged two others and started several small grass fires Thursday afternoon on West Gregory Road.
The blaze forced Jackson County Fire District No. 3 to ring a second alarm, calling in engines from several agencies to the area just outside White City.
No injuries were reported, but the fires enveloped the neighborhood in the 500 block of West Gregory in a pocket of thick, black smoke for more than an hour.
Cheryl Benton lives near the homes and heard at least three small explosions at about 5 p.m.
"It sounded like someone taking target practice," Benton said. "I looked out and saw black smoke everywhere."
Fire crews were forced to haul water to the scene because the area lacks fire hydrants, said District 3 Chief Dan Petersen.
"It made things more difficult for us," Petersen said.
Water trucks hauling approximately 3,000 gallons rushed to the scene and began dumping water into large portable "ponds" that make water available to the engines.
Seven water tenders rotated filling up the ponds, Fire District No. 3 spokesman Don Hickman said. Hickman said the lack of fire hydrants was an obstacle the crews are trained to overcome.
"We train for this," Hickman said. "When we get rolling, it's a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows their role."
By having the water on hand quickly, the firefighters were able to keep the flames from burning through powerlines near the mobile homes. The majority of the fire was contained within 20 minutes of the crews' arrival.
The smoke column was visible high above Central Point. It brought several onlookers, who flashed pictures of the blaze on their cellphones.
The fire crews shut down a chuck of West Gregory Road for several hours as they battled the flames.
Holly Hardin was in the area when she saw the smoke begin to pour from the mobile homes.
"I saw the fire start in one little corner of one of the homes and then it spread to another home and into the trees," she said. "It was crazy."
In all, three mobile homes placed close together were damaged by the flames.
Multiple sheds and vehicles on the property also burned, Petersen said.
"We are not sure how many structures were involved at this point," he said.
It is believed that two of the families were home when the fire sparked. One family was not accounted for late into the afternoon, Petersen said.
A steady breeze carried embers from the fire to dry grass nearby. Several small spot fires were quickly doused by Oregon Department of Forestry crews, Petersen said.
"We had spot fires appear from one quarter to one-third of a mile away," Petersen said.
Witnesses said the fire looked to have started in a shed and moved to a mobile home, Petersen said.
"We have an origin in mind, but we don't know what started this," Petersen said. "We will have fire investigators on scene to determine that."
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.