Lawnmower sparks rural blaze

Written by Dick Mason, The Observer July 31, 2013 10:33 am

Fire crews battled a 23.7-acre blaze Tuesday on Foothill Road. A spark created from a lawn mower ignited the blaze, fire officials said. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Fire crews battled a 23.7-acre blaze Tuesday on Foothill Road. A spark created from a lawn mower ignited the blaze, fire officials said. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
 

A spark created by a property owner mowing grass ignited a 23.7-acre pasture fire late Tuesday afternoon.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, which occurred approximately 500 yards west of the Interstate 84 Reynolds Rest Area. No structures were damaged by the blaze, fire officials said. The fire started when the individual mowing grass hit rocks, generating a spark, said La Grande Rural Fire Chief Larry Wooldridge. 

The fire was reported at 4:10 p.m. and contained by 5:30 p.m., by which time a perimeter was established around the fire and crews began working on hot spots, Wooldridge said. 

The fire came within 100 yards of a house on 57991 Foothill Road before stopping right at the point a dirt road passed through the area. 

“The road did stop it,” Wooldridge said. “The road created a natural fire barrier.”

Debbie Waite was in the house with two of her grandchildren when she received a phone call from her husband, Reed, asking if she saw a blaze. 

“I looked out and saw a fire,” Waite said. “I saw flames in a neighbor’s field. I took my two grandchildren and left right way.”

Wooldridge said that Waite’s house and two others nearby would have been at risk had the wind been blowing in its normal direction. Normally, the wind blows north to south but late Tuesday afternoon it was blowing south to north. 

“Normally, it would have been pushing the flames toward the houses (on Foothill Road),” Wooldridge said. 

Joining La Grande Rural at the fire were the La Grande, Cove, Imbler and Union fire departments plus a crew from the Oregon Department of Forestry. Crews remained at the fire site until 8:45 p.m. About 12 firefighting vehicles and 35 firefighters were brought in to put out the blaze. 

 

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