With smoke and ash filling the skies through most of the week and residents on edge amid news of the devastation ripping through several Oregon communities, a fire broke out just after midnight early Thursday morning in Philomath.
Philomath Fire & Rescue and supporting agencies responded to contain the blaze at a double-wide manufactured home at 866 N. 12th St.
“The fire engulfed nearly one half of the whole structure, which is a total loss,” Philomath Fire & Rescue Capt. Rich Saalsaa said. “No injuries reported and the two occupants of the residents were able to get out before being trapped by the fire.”
Saalsaa, who served as incident commander on the scene, said the front part of the home and deck were in flames when firefighters were dispatched at 12:19 a.m. Thursday.
Investigators ruled that cigarettes left in a large tin can on the deck were the cause of the fire.
“It is likely that due to hot and dry conditions, the contents of the makeshift ash can caught fire, dropped down under the desk, catching the weeds on fire, spread to the deck, which spread to the front of the dwelling,” Saalsaa said. “The fire was not noticed until it had well developed.”
Philomath Fire & Rescue had 10 firefighters on scene and were assisted by the Corvallis Fire Department, Blodgett/Summit Rural Fire Protection District and Hoskins/Kings Valley Rural Fire Protection District.
Saalsaa said the North 12th Street blaze was not the first time that local firefighters had responded to a structure fire that originated with makeshift ash cans.
“People are reminded that cigarette receptacles should be periodically filled with water before disposal and not left to accumulate — no matter the weather conditions,” Saalsaa said, adding that the current conditions did contribute to the rapid growth of the fire.
Some local residents experiencing anxiety over the conditions of the past several days wondered if the smoke and ash could’ve led to the fire.
“We had several calls with people concerned that this fire was caused by the smoke and ash in the air, but that was not the case here,” Saalsaa said. “The closest large fire in Benton County was the fire in Alsea.”
Saalsaa was referring to a two-acre brush and timber fire that ignited in the Alsea vicinity on Sept. 7. The fire closed Highway 34 for about six hours while crews brought the fire under control and mopped up hot spots.
Philomath Fire & Rescue sent two water tenders and a brush rig along with three command personnel — Fire Chief Tom Miller as incident commander, Deputy Fire Chief Chancy Ferguson as division supervisor and Saalsaa as the staging/water officer.
The Oregon Department of Forestry was the lead agency at the fire, which was located on private land, Saalsaa added. Others responding included Corvallis Fire, Blodgett/Summit Rural Fire Protection District, Monroe Fire Department, Hoskins/Kings Valley Rural Fire Protection District and the Central Coast Fire District.
The Philomath vicinity was among the regions that were under red flag warnings last week. As a result, all Benton County agencies respond to all grass and wildland fire incidents.
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