TUMALO, Ore. - A handyman using a propane torch to burn brush in the rimrock above the Deschutes River in Tumalo thought the fire was out when he left – but it rekindled the next day, and fire crews were called out late Thursday to douse a quarter-acre brushfire, officials said.
A property owner on the west side of the river north of Bend called dispatchers to report seeing a brushfire at the top of the cliffs across the river, but didn't know the exact location, said Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering.
Responding crews, assisted by the Cloverdale Fire District and Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, located the brushfire at 64555 El Dorado Trail and were able to contain it at a quarter-acre, Kettering said. No structures were damaged, she added.
An investigation determined a handyman had been doing some debris burning on Wednesday, using a propane torch to burn some standing bitterbrush and sagebrush in the rocks at the edge of the cliff, but believed it was out before leaving, Kettering said.
The rocky area had a large amount of duff and debris, along with the root systems for the brush growing there. Kettering said Thursday's warm temperatures and afternoon winds caused smoldering embers to reignite, sparking the blaze.
The fire official said anyone burning debris should clear the ground surrounding a fire for 10 feet in all directions. She also said to never burn heavy standing vegetation such as juniper, sage or bitterbrush, as the root systems can smolder for extended periods of time.
Always follow burning regulations in the area in which you live, Kettering said. Bend-area residents can pick up a copy of the burning rules at any fire station or download a copy at http://www.bendoregon/gov/fire .
Kettering said the handyman got just a warning, not a fine, as "he did try to do the right thing – he had a copy of the burning regulations, had called the information line to ensure it was a burn day, had water on site, etc. He just didn't think about the roots and duff underneath that could smolder undetected, especially in a rocky outcropping. He was very cooperative and apologetic, and asked me for safety tips on burning."