BEND, Ore. - A small fire, sparked in an unusual way, was stopped fast along the Old Bend-Redmond Highway on Monday, prompting fire officials to remind residents that despite recent rain from thunderstorms, the grass is dry and the heat is back, keeping the wildfire threat very high.
Bend fire crews responded around 3:30 p.m. to a brushfire along the highway north of Tumalo Road and soon learned it was sparked by a piece of chain from a vehicle dragging on the road, heating up enough to break free, said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.
The piece of metal landed in the dry grass beside the road, igniting a fire that neighbors and passers-by were able to help keep small by putting dirt on it until crews arrived, Derlacki said.
Fire crews were on scene within six minutes and kept the blaze very small, about 150-by-50 feet. But Derlacki called it "a great example of the fire danger that exists."
"Even though we had several days of thunderstorms and rain last week, the fuels such as grass and brush have already dried back out to levels seen before the rain," the fire official wrote in a news release.
"With the hot, dry days ahead, we need to remember that even the smallest bit of metal off a chain, campfire or misuse of fire could quickly ignite nearby vegetation and cause a catastrophic fire," Derlacki added.
He offered a few tips to help prevent fires.
-If you are towing anything with a chain on it, ensure it's up so it won't drag on the ground. That "creates immense heat and sparks and bits that can fly off can start fires."
-Open debris burning is not allowed throughout Central Oregon right now. Escaped burns are a leading cause of wildfires, locally and nationally.
-If you have a campfire, be sure to follow all laws, regulations and safety practices. They are outlawed outside developed campsites, due to the summer temperatures. Check with the local agency where you live or are traveling to get the most up-to-date fire restriction.
-If you are working to create defensible space around your home, be sure you don't unintentionally start a fire while doing so, Derlacki said. Weed-eaters against rocks and chain saws against metal can easily make a spark that can start a fire. Many forests are under regulated closure, limiting use of chain saws and similar equipment.