MERLIN, Ore. – A fast-moving fire described as a “wall of flames” heading toward homes was stopped in its tracks by dozens of firefighters responding from across the Rogue Valley.
Fire officials said a vehicle fire along Brookside Boulevard near the Grants Pass Airport spread to nearby dry grass, then was pushed by the wind toward 20 homes. One garage was destroyed and two homes suffered minor damage, but crews were able to prevent any homes from being destroyed. Brian Ballou from the Oregon Department of Forestry said the fire reached 31 acres in size, and crews now have fire lines around the entire fire.
More than 60 firefighters responded to the scene from ODF, Rural-Metro, Grants Pass, Medford, Ashland, Jacksonville, Williams, and Illinois Valley. Three helicopters and one air tanker were being used to drop water and fire retardant on the flames, and several engines and bulldozers helped the firefight on the ground.
The flames spread south from Brookside Boulevard toward Merlin Road, and threatened 20 homes in its path. Merlin Road and Monument Drive were both closed to traffic for a few hours as crews battled the flames.
People living in the fire’s path said they are thankful for the efforts of firefighters to protect homes and keep people safe.
“These guys do an outrageously good job,” said Steve Edwards, who tried to put out flames around neighbors houses on Merlin Road before firefighter arrived. “If it hadn’t been for that, every house around here, everything would have gone up in flames, because that wind was ripping along pretty intensely.”
Firefighters said the wind and dry brush helped the flames move quickly, which meant crews had to get people to safety. There were no reported injuries. Several firefighters from Rural-Metro and Grants Pass pulled an elderly woman to safety as flames approached her home.
“She’s somewhat disabled, elderly lady, could only get around with a walker,” said Mike Shaw of Rural Metro. “So myself and Captain Mark Shay, we had to pick her up and get her out, and take her up through the smoke out of the driveway.”
Firefighters said they are investigating what sparked the initial car fire. They said crews will likely spend Friday mopping up the scene of the fire.