LA PINE, OR -- A quick response by passers-by and fire crews prevented what could have become a dangerous brush fire. Two small fires were reported along Highway 97, near Prairie Drive, at about 9 a.m. Thursday. La Pine Fire Chief Mike Supkis says it appears they were started by a vehicle, "Either it was exhaust, or a chain on the back of a vehicle, or the vehicle actually left the highway and caused the fire."
He says it’s unusual for a vehicle to start a fire so easily, under regular circumstances, "However, it’s very common when we have fuel moistures that are below 20%, like we have right now, and even close to maybe single digits, and the very warm and dry temperatures we’ve had in the last week or so." He tells KBND News, "The fine fuels, right now, are extremely, extremely dry. So, just any ignition can start a problem."
Supkis says they were lucky: passersby stopped immediately and worked to control the flames. He says that vigilance and willingness to help - without putting anyone in harm's way - is much appreciated, "People of Central Oregon look like they’re prepared; they have shovels in their vehicles, several people had fire extinguishers on this, and the first Forestry unit on-scene reported that civilians basically had this fire controlled by the time professional responders got there. And, that’s fantastic." Chief Supkis says a small fire near Sunriver on Tuesday was also stopped by good Samaritans.
With local firefighters in The Dalles helping with the Substation Fire, Supkis says, "Forestry is still chasing a lot of lightning smokes, and things like that, so there are fewer resources, locally. We’re really watching - The thing to do is to watch the starts." And, he says that takes a community-wide effort, "We are asking people to be ever-so-vigilant, vehicles need to be in good condition, they need to stay on the road – don’t park on the grass – and just be extremely cautious how dry and tinder the fuels are out there, right now."