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MailTribune.com
  • Origin of grass fire unknown

    Blaze south of Medford knocked down with help of helicopter
  • Agrass fire that burned about nine acres Friday near the intersection of Surrey Drive and Dark Hollow Road was human-caused, but investigators still are trying to determine exactly how it started, a fire official said.
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  • Agrass fire that burned about nine acres Friday near the intersection of Surrey Drive and Dark Hollow Road was human-caused, but investigators still are trying to determine exactly how it started, a fire official said.
    Flames threatened one home, burning to within about 100 feet of the structure before a helicopter was able to drown the fire's head with water-bucket drops, said Brian Ballou, fire prevention specialist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
    The fire started in an orchard, climbed and blackened a telephone pole and swept through a field of dry grass before burning onto an oak-covered hillside, Ballou said.
    About 40 firefighters from ODF, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Medford Fire-Rescue, Jackson County Fire districts 3, 5 and 2 and Jacksonville Fire Department worked to knock down the blaze about 2 miles south of Medford, Ballou said.
    The report of a grass fire came over the radio at about 2:30 p.m., and the fire was under control by about 3:15 p.m.
    A helicopter dispatched to the scene dropped several 200-gallon buckets of water on the blaze.
    "We don't dispatch the helicopter to every report of a fire, but if we've got a pretty good column of smoke, we call back and tell the helicopter driver to jump into his ship and spool up and come running," Ballou said. "It does us a lot of good."
    Ballou said Friday the fire was completely surrounded by fire line dug by hand tools and a bulldozer and was being mopped up.
    "We took a hand line crew out and they did some digging up on top through the oak but the bulk of it down below was all good dozer ground ... the dozer made quick work of it," Ballou said.
    He said the fire burned through several piles of old orchard trees.
    Jan Lahner, 56, who lives on Surrey Drive just across the road from where the fire started, said she saw workers driving away from the orchard just a few minutes before the fire started.
    "We were sitting in the living room when we saw the flames," she said. "It was burning clear up the telephone pole ... the flames were huge."
    In response to the recent dry, hot conditions, fire officials raised the fire danger level to extreme Friday.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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