Good Samaritans Step Up, Fight Cloverdale Fire

Wind-Fanned Blaze Could Have Spead Far, Fast

POSTED: 7:55 PM PDT June 26, 2012    UPDATED: 11:34 PM PDT July 6, 2011 
Bend, OR -

Three separate fires sparked up Wednesday evening, all apparently starting from power lines from the same utility.

The first two fires were in Tumalo, the first on Pinehurst and Tumalo Reservoir Road that was put out very quickly. The second blackened an acre on Johnson Road past Shevlin Park, stopped thanks to a quick-acting homeowner who saw the sparks.

And the third brushfire happened along Fryrear Road near Cloverdale around 6 p.m., also burning less than an acre. But if it wasn't for some Good Samaritans helping put it out, it could have become much worse.

Scott Foster was just on his way home when he saw the brushfire on Highway 20 and decided to get out and help extinguish it.

"I was coming up through the passing lane behind us here and I (saw) smoke, so I figured we got something going on," Foster said later.

Not knowing how long it would be before firefighters were on scene, Foster decided to take action.

"I was concerned, because if it gets up in the juniper that we have up along the highway, I figured we could lose houses," Foster said.

Foster took out a shovel from the back of his truck and started to pour dirt on the fire. He also made use of his backpack water sprayer.

"I am a retired timber faller, so I took the training years ago," he said. "So you know, you do what you can, even if you don't have training."

Foster says there were a couple other men who also stopped to help. They were able to keep the fire from going any farther, and potentially having it become much worse, authorities agreed.

"If it wasn't for the people here who started throwing dirt on it, yes it could have," said Cloverdale Deputy Fire Chief John Thomas.

Cloverdale firefighters were on scene fast, along with Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service crews.

But living in Central Oregon, you have to be used to even minor fires happening all the time.

"This grass, as you can see, when it starts turning brown like this, that means once it comes out of the purple stage, we are in fire season, guys," Foster said. "It's just really scary to see that."

As for the cause of the fire, a transformer on a Central Electric Cooperative power line blew. There must have been a surge all throughout the company's lines, because it was the third small brushfire of the evening that started that way.

"When that blows, it sends to the ground 72,000 volts. And it shoots out a fireball and a deafening sound, explosion," Thomas said.

Besides a brief interruption of power to peoples houses nearby, nobody was injured or structures threatened.

"We had plenty of help," Foster said. "It was a really lucky situation that it didn't get out of control."

And it was another timely reminder to always be prepared, because you just never know when you will run across a fire. Authorities will tell you not to take chances, but if you can help safely...

"People need to be aware of how dangerous it is out here," Foster said.

Fire crews say it's all thanks to quick-acting residents that all three fires were put out quickly.