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MailTribune.com
  • Upper Table Rock fire was sparked by mower

    Oregon Department of Forestry is determining any responsibility for suppression costs, which totaled $98,000
  • A disc mower being used to cut a rye and triticale field hit a rock and sparked the Modoc fire on Upper Table Rock last week, fire investigators determined.
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  • A disc mower being used to cut a rye and triticale field hit a rock and sparked the Modoc fire on Upper Table Rock last week, fire investigators determined.
    The cost of battling the 42-acre blaze Thursday totaled around $98,000, said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
    Ballou said ODF is still investigating to determine whether the property owners will be held responsible for any or all of the suppression costs.
    "It's always possible whenever someone causes a fire," Ballou said.
    Mark Northrop, deputy fire marshal for Jackson County Fire District No. 3, which was in charge of tracking the fire's cause, said investigators determined the worker who started the fire was following all of the appropriate fire regulations, but the decision of who will foot the suppression bill falls to ODF.
    About 60 ODF and District 3 personnel, along with three helicopters and two bulldozers, attacked the Modoc fire, which started just before noon on Thursday and sent a heavy plume of smoke billowing from the popular hiking destination.
    Pushed by steadily increasing winds, the fire raced through a mowed hay field before hitting dry grass, brush and oak on the southernmost flank of Upper Table Rock.
    The fire forced an evacuation of five hikers from the dirt trail leading to the top of the volcanic plateau and closed a portion of Modoc Road for several hours while helicopters flew overhead, dropping water from a nearby pond on the advancing flames.
    Having been mopped up over the weekend, the fire is "pretty much history," Ballou said, but ODF crews will monitor it throughout the week to ensure nothing flares up.
    Ballou said southwest Oregon is especially vulnerable to fires this year, and people should exercise explicit caution so their actions outdoors don't spark a blaze.
    According to statistics released Monday, ODF crews have responded to 76 fires so far this year in southwest Oregon — all human caused.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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