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Murphy fire started when tree hit power line

MURPHY — A large pine tree broke off, downed power lines and started a fire that raced around two houses and burned 21/2 acres Tuesday afternoon.

Traffic was backed up for a quarter-mile as firefighters rushed to quell the flames in the 8000 block of Williams Highway around 2:45 p.m.

The homes were saved, but the fire consumed a motor home, a pickup truck and two outbuildings.

"My mom saw the whole thing," said Dan Walker, a resident who heard the tree snap. "I started using the hose, and it moved into the backyard and shot along the fence line. At least the house is still here. The fire put a circle all the way around it, and the neighbors' too."

Walker said the motor home and truck were his father's.

The fire started right in front of the houses, and when it moved into the backyard it also hit an open field of grass and crept toward the Applegate River.

"It had a good wind on it and was starting to push out across the field," said Lang Johnson, deputy chief for Grants Pass Fire and Rescue. "Fortunately, it ran into a pond and we didn't get any more spread. We had two helicopters working the incident and they were a great big help."

Karl Witz, incident commander for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said conditions are bone-dry and the fire could have toasted a larger area.

"Good catch. My guys were hustle and bustle, swarming like bees," Witz said.

Some phone customers were without service because of the incident, but Frontier Communications was working to restore that service, according to a press release from Josephine County Emergency Services.

Pacific Power also had to deal with outages caused by the fire.

Rural/Metro Fire Department, Grants Pass Fire and Rescue, Applegate Fire District, and ODF crews responded.