2-acre fire in Oakridge: 'It'll be one of those years when things burn'

OAKRIDGE, Ore. -- A fast-moving, two-acre fire startled firefighters and Oakridge residents Saturday evening, prompting eight homes to evacuate while crews worked to contain the blaze.

After getting the upper-hand on the blaze Saturday night crews spent Sunday mopping up the hot spots of the fire that jumped High Prairie Road.

U.S. Forest Service officials said if the fire had started just an hour earlier, the outcome would have been very different.

"We had some resources on-scene and they were able to make a very effective stop on what could have been a difficult piece of ground. It would have been a much different fire if it had run to the top of this knob," said Dale Gardner with the U.S. Forest Service, pointing north of High Prairie Road. "We had a real influx of personnel close by, so that was hand crews, engines and helicopters."

Gardner said those crews were returning from the nearby Staley and Deception Creek Complex fires, and they were quick to mobilize on the Oakridge fire.

The Lane County Sheriff's Office evacuated eight nearby residences.

"There was a very legitimate threat to structures, residences and other kinds of structures in this area," said Garnder.

"Water is effective only when you have people working on the ground with the water. We want to cool the fire down, so people can get in safely to an area," said Mark DeGregorio, a spokesperson for the Willamette National Forest.

DeGregorio said four helicopters were staged at the Oakridge airport, assisting ground crews and dropping water in hard-to-reach, rugged terrain.

"These fuels probably don't get much drier than this right now. This will be one of those years when things burn," said DeGregorio.

Fire officials say the two-acre High Prairie fire is under investigation and may take days, if not weeks to determine the cause.

Contracted fire crews will remain in the area to cool any remaining hot spots.

"These fields probably don't get much drier than they are right now. It'll be one of those years when things burn," said Gardner.