HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. (KOIN 6) – Metro firefighters have been very busy the past few weeks responding to numerous bark dust or grass fires.
The fires, which normally start out small, have the potential to spreading and causing a lot of damage.
Firefighter Brandon Paxton, a spokesperson with Clackamas County Fire Dist. 1, said that homeowners should maintain a good “defensible space” around their home, which means making sure that all dead vegetation is removed from areas around the home. Firefighters said a 30-foot radius is the recommended amount of space that should separate a home and the vegetation. Trees, scrubs and grass should be maintained, and watered within city limits, firefighters said.
Paxton said fire-safe landscaping can help homeowner with creating a defensible space, Paxton said.
“Brick pavers are great examples,” he said. “…If those are three feet or wider it tends to break down the fires potential to spread to your structure.”
Paxton said it’s important that people report any potential grass fires so emergency crews can make sure there is no residual heat.
“Bark dust fires are tricky because what you see on the surface isn’t what you actually see underground,” Paxton said. “It’s more like the tip of an iceberg.”
The fire can actually spread underground. Firefighters usually need to dig up parts of the ground to make sure the fire is fully extinguished. Officials cautioned the public not to do so because of the potential of buried utility lines.
The fires are often started by improperly discarded cigarettes, Paxton said.