JACKSONVILLE, Ore. — People living near the Sterling Creek Fire just outside of Jacksonville are now back down to an evacuation level one. While the situation seemed to have deescalated quickly, yesterday was quite frightening for many on the ground.
Bryan Shelander was the first one to spot the fire. He had seen a couple of lightning strikes earlier in the day when two storm cells passed overhead. "I had gone outside and seen some strikes but couldn't really tell where they had hit," he explains. But I saw one back in the direction of what ended up being that fire. When I turned around I did see the smoke coming off of the snag that had been hit by lightning up there."
While he acted quickly from that point, he says there was still a couple of hours when it was burning before he saw the smoke.
"It was probably two hours after the lightning strike that I actually saw the smoke," says Shelander. So it had some time to get up and going."
Shelander called 911 and gathered his neighbors to help fight the fire. Kyle Gossman was one such neighbor. He knows first hand what kind of a situation they were up against.
"When we were trying to create a line for it, the fire just kept moving downhill really quick," he details. "Every time you felt like you were making some headway, the wind would pick up. I knew it was going to spread quick. As soon as the brush caught on fire, it was cooking."
Fortunately, air resources and fire crews were able to knock it down just in time. "Suddenly we got a second helicopter called in, hand crews were showing up," explains Shelander. "And before long, the air tankers came and started dropping retardant.
Now, those living nearby can breathe a sigh of relief. "I feel good, I feel relieved," says Gossman. "We were packing up our stuff and getting ready to take off so...saving the property and saving the farm was really amazing. They did a really good job up there."