Officials at the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) have concluded that the Dowens Road Fire, which occurred on May 10 just outside Cottage Grove, was not directly human-caused.
“The cause of it was a branch coming into contact with the power lines,” said Michael Curran, unit forester with ODF’s South Cascade District. “It is important to note, though, the tree that had the branch fall to cause the fire was outside of the power line right of way.”
The 75.6-acre blaze took four days to contain, destroyed one residence, threatened several others and prompted a Level 1 Evacuation to be issued between Dowens Road and Shoreview Drive by Lane County Emergency Management.
Within two hours of being reported, a full complement of agencies including ODF, 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, Cottage Grove Police and Oregon State Police were on the scene to battle the blaze and direct residents to safety.
At least 86 emergency response personnel were involved in the event.
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. on the day of the fire, the threat to homes had been mitigated and the sheriff’s office lifted the evacuation notice.
No deaths or injuries resulted from the fire.
Fires caused by power lines have caused immense devastation lately in Northern California. In late 2017, power lines owned by Pacific Gas & Electric were blamed for 18 related deaths and a dozen Northern California wildfires, including the infamous Camp Fire which burned up the town of Paradise.
One of Oregon’s largest power companies, Pacific Power, has said it will consider shutting down electricity during extreme weather events to avoid wildfires, though only “as a last resort,” the company said in a press release in June.