Battle against big grass fire mercifully short

<p>Firefighters spray water down on the hillside while a farm tractor up on the ridge appears to have completed its work in Sunday's battle with a blaze on CRP acreage.</p>

Sudden strong winds kicked flames from burning rubbish into the tall grass of a nearby field, starting a fast-moving wildfire south of Enterprise Sunday afternoon.

Enterprise Fire Chief Paul Karvoski said Enterprise and Joseph fire departments were immediate responders to the March 25 blaze, which he believes was reported around 4:20 p.m. He estimates 40 acres of ground were already involved when first units arrived on the scene, and within 20 minutes calls went out to two other mutual-aid partners – the Wallowa Fire Department and the Oregon Department of Forestry firefighting crew based in Wallowa.

According to Karvoski, Trevor Collins, a resident south of Enterprise, was legally burning rubbish in a pit at the back of his property Sunday afternoon. Though winds were calm when Collins began burning, sudden gusts estimated at 20-25 mph transmitted burning material onto adjacent property, a Stangel Industries field enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

This piece of land is one of a number of CRP-enrolled properties in the area, and all are currently in tall grass. The blaze, which started on a hillside above Getting Road, crested the hill and was headed toward the dump off of Ant Flat Road. Firefighting crews tackled the blaze from both directions.

The wind weakened and made a favorable shift, turning the flames back toward the fire’s origin, and battle was quickly won.

Without those changes in the wind, the fire chief said, “we would have had a huge CRP fire going on there.”

Karvoski also credited good coordination between responding agencies and key assists from residents. He said two farm tractors that were part of the fight “were a big help.” He added: “Thanks for the neighbors’ help. Thanks, Joseph and Wallowa, for mutual-aiding us.”

He estimates 80-90 acres were burned. Responders were released from the scene around 6:30 p.m.

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