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Grants Pass Firefighters Knock Down Out-of-Hand Cookfire

A transient woman was cooking dinner over an open fire near the railroad tracks when the wind began spreading flames to nearby brush, according to authorities.

Posted: Jun 13, 2018 4:11 PM
Updated: Jun 13, 2018 4:19 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Firefighters in Grants Pass rushed to a runaway brush fire on Tuesday night, apparently caused by a transient woman's cookfire, according to the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (GPDPS).

GPDPS received a call about a fire burning in blackberry brambles near Booth Street and some railroad tracks just after 9 p.m. Firefighters and police arrived to find a "fast-moving" fire, driven by winds along the corridor of the railroad tracks.

Fire crews used wildland hose packs to knock the fire down, before mopping the fire up completely and scouring the area for any blowing embers.

A witness then told police officers that there was a woman hiding in some bushes nearby. Police found the woman, later identified as 49-year-old Sherry Matthies, a local transient.

In interviewing Matthies, police heard that she had been cooking dinner over an open fire when the wind took hold of the flames and spread them out of her control.

Matthies was arrested and lodged in the Josephine County jail on charges of Trespass 1 (for railroad property) and Reckless Burning.

GPDPS reminded the public in a statement that open burning inside of city limits is not allowed—aside from approved recreational fire pits.

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