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Fire crews save Pendleton South Hill homes

Phil Wright

East Oregonian

Published on September 13, 2017 11:00AM

Last changed on September 13, 2017 7:22PM

Pendleton firefighters battle a brush fire burning on a hillside off Southeast Third Street and Hailey Avenue on Wednesday in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Pendleton firefighters battle a brush fire burning on a hillside off Southeast Third Street and Hailey Avenue on Wednesday in Pendleton.

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A Pendleton firefighter sprays down a wooden retaining wall while battling a brush fire on a hillside near Southeast Third Street and Hailey Avenue on Wednesday in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

A Pendleton firefighter sprays down a wooden retaining wall while battling a brush fire on a hillside near Southeast Third Street and Hailey Avenue on Wednesday in Pendleton.

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Pendleton firefighters protect an apartment building from a brush fire on a hillside near Southeast Third Street and Hailey Avenue on Wednesday in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Pendleton firefighters protect an apartment building from a brush fire on a hillside near Southeast Third Street and Hailey Avenue on Wednesday in Pendleton.

Buy this photo

Pendleton firefighters Wednesday morning quenched a field blaze that threatened multiple homes and an apartment building.

The fire occurred around 10:30 a.m. on the brush-covered hill above Southeast Goodwin Avenue at Southeast Third Street. The burn moved toward homes both up the hill and along Goodwin.

Residents helped each other before police or fire crews arrived. Liv and Gary Wyatt said a neighbor warned them to get out of their house at 208 S.E. Goodwin. They joined others across the street in front of the Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter and watched the flames reach into a tree near their back yard.

Liz Wyatt said they moved into the home in April, and they had survived a home fire in the 1970s when they lived in Condon.

“We were almost statistics in (that) fire,” Gary Wyatt said.

Shannon Blood said she was on the deck of her house on the 600 block of Southeast Third Street and smelled smoke but didn’t think too much of it, due to the increase in haze from regional wildfires. Then she saw some puffs of smoke, and then ash.

“These hills get really dry around this time of year and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Blood said.

She, her husband and their daughter live in a large house with five chickens, five dogs and two cats — and they were all safe. The couple’s two sons live in the smaller house next door and Blood described how she “pounded and pounded” on the their door to get them out.

Pendleton police arrived within moments, Blood said, and told her to leave the area.

Pilot Rock and the Umatilla Indian Reservation fire departments joined Pendleton in the effort to contain the blaze, as did the Oregon Department of Forestry. Teams primarily attacked from above to keep flames from an apartment building, Blood’s property and other homes.

Pendleton Fire Chief Mike Ciraulo said the fire was strong when they arrived, so crews took on “point protection” to keep flames from houses.

“It appears we’ve been successful thus far,” he said on scene. “We haven’t lost any structures.”

Establishing the control line, however, took some time because finding water supplies was a challenge. Crews were able to get on the fire “right away,” he said, but the dearth of personnel meant letting the fire burn west, although that posed no threat to homes.

Even so, firefighters contained the blaze within an hour, but Ciraulo said plenty of work remained and they stayed on the scene into the afternoon.

Liz Wyatt said she was thankful her old home’s windows don’t open and thus kept out the smoke. Blood said the smoke damage might force her family to repaint.

Ciraulo also said the fire’s cause is under investigation.





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