Evacuation lifted as fire crews gain control

Emergency responders shut down Row River Road Friday as fire crews attempted to contain the wildfire.

Crews from multiple emergency and wildland agencies responded Friday to a fire on a hillside off Row River Road.

The 87-acre fire was reported around 4 p.m. and threatened several residences, destroying one, and prompted a Level 1 Evacuation to be issued between Dowens Road and Shoreview Drive by Lane County Emergency Management.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Within two hours of being reported, a full complement of agencies including South Lane Fire and Rescue, Eugene-Springfield Fire, Coburg Fire, Lowell Fire, Lane Fire Authority, Harrisburg Fire, Lane County Sheriff's Office, Lane County Search and Rescue, Lane County Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Cottage Grove Police and Oregon State Police were on the scene to battle the blaze and direct residents to safety. A total of 86 personnel responded to the emergency.

Due to a high volume of onlookers on Row River Road and a lack of response to clear the area, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office closed the road for much of Friday evening.

Meanwhile, three helicopters on six-hour shifts took turns dropping water on the fire while two bulldozers helped build containment lines along the fire’s flanks. By 10:30 p.m. Friday, the threat to homes had been mitigated and the sheriff’s office lifted the evacuation notice.

Through the night, fire crews worked to improve containment of the fire, achieving 35 percent containment and completing control lines around 85 percent of the fire’s perimeter by 9 a.m. Saturday.

Though the cause of the fire is still under investigation by ODF, it is thought to have started at a cluster of residences near the base of the hill, according to ODF Public Information Officer Marcus Kauffman. The area is a patchwork of residences and logging slash and timber on private forest land.

“Seventy-five percent of fires are human-caused,” Kauffman said.

The investigation will include extensive review of forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts, a process that Kauffman says may take some time.

“I’ve never seen it done in quicker than 30 days,” he said. “It’s a very laborious and comprehensive process.

On May 8, a temporary outdoor burning ban was issued jointly by Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, Lane County Fire Defense Board and ODF, extending from May 9 to May 16.

While the evacuation notice has been lifted, Dowens Road remains closed as firefighters continue to monitor the area.

“Things are pretty stable,” Kauffman said. “We will be patrolling throughout the day and into the evening and we won’t leave the area until we deem that it’s safe. So we’ll be here on site with engines for the next couple of days.”

On top of being aware of outdoor burning bans, Kauffman stressed the importance of being attuned to abnormal weather patterns.

“I think that it’s really important for people to recognize that we are in summer wildfire weather in May,” he said. “We’re two months ahead of schedule and people need to adjust how they behave around fire, what they do with fire and adjust their expectations of what they can do.”