Brush fire stopped within a few feet of homes on King Street

       The expression “not a moment to lose” could easily be applied to a brush fire March 21 that burned so close to homes on the south side of King Street's 2700 block that it charred a fence and landscape timbers outside a duplex near Crown Ridge Drive.
       “Oh, what a group of firefighters we have,” exulted Anne Traver, who rents the upstairs unit of that duplex. “They're to be commended for the job they did.”
       She also was grateful to an unknown motorist who reportedly called in the fire from a cell phone at 1:33 p.m. - especially since, as it turned out, none of her nearest neighbors were home and she herself was taking a nap, not yet noticing the smoke that was blowing in her windows. “I was asleep and then bam, bam bam! The firefighters were at my door, telling me I needed to get out,” Traver said.
       Nine engine companies responded. Wind-aided and occurring during a time of “extreme drought conditions,” the blaze was raging so quickly up the slope behind King, according to Battalion Chief Kent Matthews, that when the first crew arrived, three minutes after the call, the fire was 20 feet from the nearest house. In the minute or less it took to get hoses set up and shooting water, the flames had reached the fence and were actually licking between the duplex and a neighboring apartment house.
       “We were able to knock it down right there,” Matthews said. “We got eight hose lines going. It was mainly dry grass, maybe a foot tall. So there wasn't a lot of heat or height.”
       The nine engine companies that were called are about half the total in the city, Matthews said. Most were kept in reserve, along with three brush trucks, but he said he wanted to make an “aggressive attack” on the fire and be certain it did not spread.
       His chief concern was keeping it out of the structures. “Once a fire makes it to houses it gains intensity, and moving from one house to the next can cause a real issue,” he said.
       Of the 40-some firefighters, all three Westside stations were represented (3, 5 and 9), while Stations 6, 7, 13 and 18 were also on hand. After the fire was out, firefighters worked with shovels in the burned area, with the last crew back in service at 3:20 p.m.
       The cause of the fire is unknown. The point of origin was near the base of the slope down from the south side of King, 100 feet or so from the homes along Willamette and Wihelmia avenues (off Uintah Street). Matthews speculated that it could have been “kids playing or a carelessly discarded cigarette. That's all it takes in these [dry] conditions.”
       During the fire, King Street was closed off between Castle Road and 25th Street.
       The fire left a black patch of about 1 ½ acres along the slope. Matthews said he expects that within several months, the grass will probably grow back, greener than before.

Westside Pioneer article