At 8:21 pm on May 25, 2018, Hillsboro Fire Department responded to a waste landfill and recycling center near the 3200 Block of SE Minter Bridge Rd for the report of a fire in a wood chip pile. First arriving crews confirmed a very large pile of wood chips was burning and beginning to spread to a pile of scrap wood, and requested a full first alarm respond.
Due to unlimited fuel supply and a persistent wind, the nearby scrap wood pile quickly became engulfed. The initial wood chip pile was nearly 200 feet long and up to 40 feet high. The secondary scrap wood pile is just as large but contains clean wood that has been salvaged and disposed of from construction sites. This property also contains a landfill, which was unaffected by the fire and not at risk at any point.
Due to the volatile nature of the wood pile and the danger associated with it, firefighters took a strategic stance to surround the pile. This facility did have a remote water source available on scene, but the volume of water necessary exceeded the capacity of the pump, forcing firefighters to utilize over 1500 feet of hose from a fire hydrant along with shuttling water. Ultimately the fuel load of the scrap wood forced firefighters to take a defensive stance and focus on containment to the scrap pile.
This fire posed several challenges to firefighters, forcing a second alarm to be transmitted.. First, the significant load of wood provided an endless supply of fuel for the fire. Secondly, the location just south of Hillsboro meant fire hydrants were not readily available, so water had to be shuttled in to the facility. Third, the wind was blowing embers away from the fire and into grassy areas nearby. A fire engine monitored the area downwind of the fire through the evening to ensure no spot fires were igniting.
No injuries were reported and no structures sustained any damage. One front loader was burned, with possible damage to a second. A cause has not yet been determined. Fire investigators from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue are on scene and will perform a more thorough investigation during daylight hours. No homes were evacuated due to the smoke, but nearby residents who may be downwind should consider keeping their windows closed until smoke has dissipated.
Initial response was provided by Hillsboro Fire Department, however, the affected address ultimately lies within Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Fire District. TVF&R responded on the upgraded alarm assignment and worked alongside Hillsboro Fire Department and Cornelius Fire through the duration of the incident. Crews will remain on scene through the evening to monitor the fire.
Update 5/26 1pm:
TVF&R Firefighters remained on scene of the Minter Bridge Rd scrap wood fire through the night and early part of today. The fire was contained to the scrap piles previously reported on. The wood piles have begun to be slowly torn apart to allow hot spots to be exposed and extinguished if possible. Firefighters will be transitioning fire watch to the ownership company today who will continue to monitor the area throughout the weekend.
These wood piles still contain hidden wood and remain hot. As crews work to dismantle the areas, neighbors should expect to see smoke at times through the weekend, but should not be to the degree we saw during the fire last night.
Investigators scoured the areas this morning, but were unable to find any outside cause to the fire. However, they are confident it began in the ‘hog fuel’ pile, also known as wood chips and bark. The wind then ultimately pushed embers to the scrap wood area, causing its ignition. There were no indications this fire is suspicious in nature and is not considered to be. Loss of revenue from the piles, operations, and damage to the front loader is estimated to be around $200,000.
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