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Burn pile blaze serves as a reminder about safety

ASHLAND — A strong breeze Tuesday morning spread flames from an out-of-control burn pile across about 3 acres of a hillside of dry grass at 1000 Dead Indian Memorial Road.

The fire, reported at 11:47 a.m., was burning across at least two pieces of private property toward homes when Jackson County Fire District No. 5 fire engines arrived 10 minutes later to begin extinguishing the flames.

"It's a pretty low-intensity fire," said Fire District 5 Division Chief Darin Welburn, "but it's a good reminder that homeowners still need to be very vigilant."

Still-green patches of blackberry bushes remained unburned inside the fire's perimeter, about one mile up the north side of Dead Indian Memorial Road, and its flames were not intense enough to damage the fences it burned through.

"These types of fires are common for this time of year," said Welburn, "but they can still pose a serious threat."

Firefighters from District 5 and Ashland Fire & Rescue had the fire corralled between roads and knocked down to a smolder by 12:15 p.m. They continued mopping up the fire throughout the day.

"It's the fine fuels that people need to watch out for. ... It rained yesterday, but that grass can dry out under an hour of sunlight, and it'll be here through the winter," said Ashland Fire & Rescue's Chris Chambers, who responded to the scene. "You could have a fire like this in January out here."

Two Oregon Department of Forestry trucks arrived to help with the final stages of mopping up the fire. Fire District 5 used six of its fire engines, with the support of a 2,000-gallon water tender, to fight the blaze.

"In the middle of summer on a windy day, this could have been a different fire," Chambers said. "That house may very well not be there."

Tuesday was a burn day and the property owner will not face fines by District 5 or have to reimburse its firefighting expenses, Welburn said.

Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or by email at swheeler@dailytidings.com.