Officials investigating fire at Jackson Frazier wetland

Jamie Anderson takes a look Thursday afternoon at the damage caused by a fire at Jackson Frazier Wetland. (Andy Cripe | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

Benton County officials are investigating a small brush fire that burned through about an acre Wednesday evening at Jackson Frazier wetland.

The Corvallis Fire Department worked the fire, which began at around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday near the walking path at Jackson Frazier wetland. No one was injured, and no homes were threatened in the blaze. The Corvallis Police Department interviewed witnesses on the scene, but no official cause has been determined.

Corvallis Police said that while they assisted with the investigation, the park is under Benton County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction and that the case was handed over to BCSO to determine the cause.

“It is a county call, so it will be assigned to the county but most of the investigation was done by the city (police),” said BCSO Capt. Don Rogers. “After we get all of that information, it will be assigned out to figure out what happened.”

Jim Patton of the Corvallis Fire Department said it was unclear whether the fire could have been human caused.

“We can’t say for sure right now,” Patton said. “It could go one way or the other at this point.”

Jamie Anderson, a neighbor of the Jackson Frazier wetland, said he saw smoke billowing out of the area Wednesday evening. Anderson said that the fire looked to be caused by a person.

“I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me like a smoker was out here,” Anderson said Thursday, adding that he sees people smoking in and around the area “just about all the time.”

“Usually people smoke in the winter when it’s wet, and it ain’t bad because the area is covered in water,” Anderson said. “Anybody who would be out here and flicking a cigarette into this would be just nuts.”

Patton reminded residents to use caution around wildland areas and open spaces.

“We can’t emphasize enough the need for people to be extremely careful in any vegetative area with smoking or recreation fires or any kind of open flame whatsoever,” Patton said. “The vegetation is extremely dry. It’s drier than it’s been for many, many years due to the prolonged dry and elevated temperature days that we’ve had.”

Patton said the danger for wildfires increases during dry periods.

“We’re looking at another whole week of dry and hot temperatures,” he said. “Every day it gets a little more dangerous, and we really need the community’s support in exercising extreme caution and alerting others to unsafe behaviors.”

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Nathan Bruttell is a reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9548 or nathan.bruttell@lee.net