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MailTribune.com
  • Grass fire blackens 5 acres, destroys two buildings along Highway 140 near White City

    The cause of the blaze is undetermined
  • Fire destroyed at least two structures and charred about five acres along Highway 140 just outside White City on Wednesday afternoon.
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  • Fire destroyed at least two structures and charred about five acres along Highway 140 just outside White City on Wednesday afternoon.
    Jackson County Fire District No. 3 investigators have not determined the cause of the blaze, which sparked at about 2:30 p.m. near the intersection of Highway 140 and Kershaw Road.
    The blaze sent a large column of black and gray smoke high above White City that was visible from Medford.
    District 3 Division Chief Dave Blakely said the flames burned into three separate properties.
    "The interior of the fire looked to be a storage yard with a lot of equipment and lumber sitting around," Blakely said.
    At least two buildings were burned and a large swath of a nearby pasture was blackened.
    Fire crews worked to drench the perimeter of the fire to keep it from spreading to the dry grass across Highway 140 and away from a line of nearby homes.
    "We were lucky the wind was blowing toward the highway," Blakely said.
    The wind pushed the flames toward the highway, which acted as a barrier and kept it from reaching more fuel.
    Oregon Department of Forestry crews monitored the open pastures around the property, checking for blowing embers that could spark additional fires.
    Jackson County sheriff's deputies closed the area to traffic as multiple fire engines closed in on the scene.
    Some residents who live near the fire said their homes lost power in the moments after the fire sparked. Power was restored within minutes after Pacific Power crews arrived on the scene.
    Blakely said fire crews were expected to remain on the site for several hours to keep watch on the area.
    "This will smolder for hours and hours," Blakely said.
    Investigators roped off patches of land at various spots around the fire in an attempt to determine a source.
    "We don't have any information of anything suspicious," Blakely said.
    The blaze capped a busy afternoon for District 3 crews. They had responded to a half-acre grass and brush fire at Hamrick Road in Central Point moments before the blaze was reported along Highway 140.
    In fact, District 3 pulled firefighters off the Hamrick Road blaze and rushed them to Highway 140, according to District 3 Battalion Chief Myron Harvey.
    ODF spokesman Brain Ballou noted that areas with dense grass and low brush are a concern to fire crews as the temperatures head toward triple digits this weekend.
    "It's hard to see how anything can possibly get any drier," Ballou said. "We are prepared for just about anything right now."
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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