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Dry, windy conditions feed pair of grass fires

Burn piles that got out of control Friday are the suspected root of a pair of grass fires that kept responding crews busy.

At about 4:30 p.m., a fire started in a field on the 11000 block of Highway 238 in the Applegate, where it then spread to a patch of blackberries, said Oregon Department of Forestry firefighter Brian Ballou.

"We got some reports that there was somebody with a burn pile in the area," said Ballou, adding that the cause is under investigation.

The fire quickly spread to 4 acres before fire crews knocked it down and were able to establish a wet-line around it, Ballou said.

It took about 45 minutes for four engines from ODF, two engines from the U.S. Forest Service and nine units from the Applegate Valley Fire District No. 9 to get the blaze under control.

"The problem was a pretty steady 10-mile-an-hour wind," said Ballou. "So it put up a pretty good column of smoke you could see from Ruch."

The earlier fires started at about 12:30 p.m. in Eagle Point.

Rod Edwards, battalion chief for Jackson County Fire District No. 3, said crews from the district and ODF arrived at an area near 820 Glass Lane to see a half-acre burn that had spread from a nearby pile to dry vegetation.

Firefighters were able to contain and extinguish the blaze in about 30 minutes, Edwards said. The fire had grown to more than an acre by that time, assisted in part by light winds. No one was hurt.

Seven engines total from both agencies responded, along with around 15 firefighters. Crews remained on scene mopping up hot spots through the afternoon.

The nearby property owner who lit the burn pile will receive a warning for not adequately clearing defensive space around the pile, Edwards said.

ODF recommends calling your local fire district for permission to burn before starting a burn pile, as local fire officials may designate certain days for burning based on weather and wind. In some areas, burning is not allowed at anytime.

Mail Tribune reporters Mandy Valencia and Ryan Pfeil contributed to this story.

Crew members from Applegate Valley Fire District No. 9 mop up a grass fire Friday along Highway 238 near Ruch. - Jamie Lusch