WHITE CITY, Ore. — What started as a half-acre grass fire in a private field of grains grew into a wildfire covering more than 35 acres.
“Got about half way up and started smelling a little bit of smoke. It smelled like a campfire,” said Nathan Humphreys as he returned from his hike to the top of the Upper Table Rock trail.
Humpreys said he and about 30 other hikers were on their way to the top of the Upper Table Rock trail during the fire. Once at the top, Humphreys realized what was going on below.
“You could see as it came up and then hit the manzanita and oak trees and stuff, it took off. You could see the flames were shooting pretty high and that was about time to leave,” said Humphreys.
Fire crews from Fire District 3 and the Oregon Department of Forestry responded to the call just before noon, and officials said weather conditions played a role in the fires growth.
“When the fire started, we had a bit of a breeze. That’s definitely what gave it its first push up the mountain and through the dry field. Now, the weather has died down a bit and it’s allowing the fire to slow down some and giving us a chance to catch up to it,” said Fire District 3 Fire Marshal Mark Northrop.
The Upper Table Rock trail was closed shortly after crews arrived. The cars of five hikers remained in the parking lot at the time and efforts had to be made to track them down and escort them off the trail. Fire officials said even in the worst case scenario, flames wouldn’t have reached the top.
“There’s a significant enough fuel break from the edge of Table Rock itself that I wouldn’t anticipate anybody on top of Table Rock being in danger,” said Northrop.
Humphreys said despite a growing emergency below him, he knew could get back down safely.
“I thought it would be okay. I knew we had enough time get down,” said Humphreys.