At 12:35 a.m. on Sept. 20, firefighters were dispatched to the 4000 block of Northwest North Road in an unincorporated portion of Multnomah County on reports of a fire burning in the trees behind a multi-story residence. Firefighters arrived on scene within minutes and found several trees on fire, yards away from the home. The first arriving engine began dousing the flames with water. The on-scene Incident Commander recognized the need for additional resources and upgraded the fire, bringing more engines, brush rigs, and water tenders to the scene.
The residence is located less than a mile from Portland’s Forest Park within the Wildland Urban Interface area (WUI) and is situated in an area of steep terrain with limited access. As a result, crews relied heavily on fire engines, brush rigs, and water tenders which all carry their own supply of water. With help from Portland Fire & Rescue, crews attacked the fire from multiple angles and had the flames under control by 2 a.m. Firefighters remained on scene into the morning hours to mop up the area.
Fortunately, there were no reported injuries, and the home did not suffer any damage. Fire investigators determined that embers from a past recreational fire had smoldered in nearby combustible materials and resulted in the tree fire. Smoldering embers can go undetected for hours or even days before igniting combustible materials.
Homes and properties within the WUI create unique challenges for firefighters. Access to water is limited, and nearby trees and vegetation serve as fuel for fires. It’s important for property owners living in rural or urban-interface areas to take steps to assist in helping protect their home and land from potential wildfires.
Here’s some steps you can take to protect your property:
- De-limb trees at least 10 feet up from the ground and cut back tree limbs hanging over your roof. Trim branches that are within 10 feet of a chimney.
- Keep fire pits, barbecues, and patio heaters at least 10 feet away from homes, structures, decks, and fences.
- Remove leaves, brush, and other debris from gutters, the roof, stairs, and underneath decks and crawlspaces.
- Regularly mow and water lawns and other green belts on your property. Keep landscaping well pruned and watered.
- Plant low-growing, fire-resistant plants such as groundcover, perennials, and annuals near your home. Plant individual shrubs and hardwood trees at least 10 feet from structures.
- Store firewood and other combustibles at least 100 feet from your home.
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