Sunday, June 25, 2017

Crews Demobilize from Chehalem Brush Fire: Fire Investigator Issues Probable Cause (Photo)


News Release from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue
Posted on FlashAlert: June 25th, 2017 8:59 PM
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After 29 hours since the fire on Chehalem Mountain was first reported, fire crews are preparing to demobilize. Though fire has not been actively burning since late last night, incident commanders wanted to ensure that coals from burned trees and brush did not spread and reignite. Several rotating firefighting crews from TVF&R and ODF have been inspecting the affected area, turning over dirt and debris, cutting down damaged trees and wetting down terrain with heavy fuels.

A TVF&R fire investigator has determined that the most probable cause of the fire was untended slash burn piles, which can smolder and remain hot for several weeks after they've been "extinguished".


Fire crews from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and Oregon Department of Forestry remain on scene and have spent nearly 24 hours ensuring that none of the hot spots from yesterday's brush fire on Chehalem Mountain rekindle. It's estimated that nearly four acres burned, but firefighters were able to protect structures and keep it from becoming a wildfire. Due to high outside temperatures, crews are being rotated frequently to prevent overexertion and heat-related illness.

Residents living in the area where the fire occurred had been served by Washington County Fire District #2 until they contracted with TVF&R for service in 2015. Voters recently decided to join TVF&R permanently and the change takes effect on July 1. Yesterday's brush fire is an example of the benefits residents receive as a result of being part of TVF&R's large network of fire stations and resources that the previous fire district would not be able to mobilize.

At 3:27 this afternoon crews were dispatched to a reported brush fire at 22755 SW Hillsboro Hwy. in the Chehalem Mountain area, north of Newberg. Initial reports to 911 indicated that the fire was approximately 20 by 20 feet and started by smoldering timber piles that grew out of control. First arriving crews on scene confirmed a brush fire that was not threatening any structures. The site presented several challenges to firefighting efforts. These challenges included steep terrain, one hundred-plus degree temperatures, and late afternoon wind. Due to the challenges presented to firefighters additional resources were requested to quickly gain control of the fire.

In addition to fire engines, brush-rigs and water tenders were dispatched. Brush-rigs are four-wheel-drive vehicles that are capable of accessing fires in rugged terrain. Water tenders shuttle water to the scene in areas without hydrants. Sixty firefighters worked to extinguish the fire and TVF&R was assisted by Hillsboro Fire and Rescue and Dundee Fire. There were no reported injuries and no structures were damaged.

Firefighters will likely remain on scene for several hours and possibly overnight as they continue to mop up and check for hot spots. It is estimated that Hillsboro Hwy. will be closed for another two hours.

A fire investigator is on scene and working to determine the cause of the fire. Though the cause of the fire remains under investigation, today's fire serves as a reminder that recent hot weather has created dry conditions that increase the potential of vegetation fires. Firefighters urge caution when using any potential ignition sources during these hot conditions.

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