NORTH POWDER — A house fire 5 miles northwest of North Powder destroyed a one-story home Monday night, Sept. 7, but caused no injuries.
The blaze came after local fire crews suppressed a 15-acre fire earlier that day near Imbler.
The house fire began around 7 p.m. and was contained about three hours later, said North Powder Fire Chief Colby Thompson.
The Wolf Creek Road home was the residence of two adults, both of whom were in the building when the fire started. The two individuals had no pets.
Thompson said people in the community provided shelter and other essentials to the home’s residents. The American Red Cross also will be assisting the victims.
The La Grande, La Grande Rural, Union and Haines fire departments assisted North Powder’s fire department. Thompson said he is grateful for how quickly the members of his fire department and surrounding ones responded to the fire.
The cause of the house fire has not been determined.
The flames did not threaten other homes or significant structures, Thompson said, but he noted that high winds made the fire more challenging to extinguish.
“It was wind-driven,” he said.
The National Weather Service reported sustained winds of 32 mph during the fire with gusts of up 39 mph.
Embers from the blaze ignited a small grass fire during the fire but it was quickly put out, Thompson said.
Earlier in the afternoon, wind powered a wildfire 4 miles southwest of Imbler.
The blaze started at about 3 p.m. when strong winds knocked over a power line near a structure in the area of Woodell Lane and Webster Road.
The fire took off, covering almost a mile before firefighters braked its advance about 25 minutes later, said Forrest Warren, a member of the Imbler Rural Fire Department.
The fire scorched a recently harvested wheat field, thus it burned across burned stubble. Had standing wheat covered the field, the blaze would have been worse.
“We would have had 7-feet high flames instead of the 3-foot flames we had,” Warren said.
While the fire started at a structure, the building never was in danger because the wind was blowing away from it, Warren said. The fire also did not put other structures in immediate danger, but they would have been if the fire continued. Warren said an engine for fighting structure fires was on scene just in case.
Warren estimated there were sustained wind speeds of 20 mph and gusts of 30 mph during the fire. The winds created clouds of dust that reduced visibility dramatically.
“We could not see anything,” Warren said.
He said it is amazing no fire trucks collided during the blaze. He credited that to La Grande Rural Fire Department Chief Craig Krestchmer, who directed fire trucks and other vehicles at the site with the assistance of radios.
“He did a fantastic job,” Warren said.
Crews from Elgin and North Powder fire departments joined the Imbler and La Grande Rural fire departments at the blaze. A field of green grass ultimately helped halt the fire’s progress. Moisture from the grass slowed the blaze, giving firefighters the upper hand.
Warren said local firefighters knew there would be a high fire danger Monday because conditions were “bone dry” and unseasonably high winds were forecast.
“We were on edge all day,” Warren said.
Kretschmer also said he knew a local fire was inevitable on Monday.
“It was just a matter of where,” the La Grande Rural fire chief said.
Warren said that as soon as the grass fire was contained, firefighters rushed to return to their communities because of the likelihood they would be needed for other fires.
Other wildfires that broke out Monday in or near Union County include the East Fork Butter Creek Fire, about 45 miles southwest of La Grande.
The 2,500-acre fire was reported at 8:40 p.m. Monday and now is almost contained, according to the Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center.