Fire contained after car sparks brush near Salem

Marion County

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Residents of South Salem returned to their homes after sparks from a car set off a brush fire that prompted evacuations in a small area for a few hours Monday afternoon.

When the driver of a malfunctioning car got out of the vehicle, the unoccupied car rolled down a hill and crashed into an electric pole, starting the brush fire. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office quickly issued Level 3 “Go” evacuations for 35 homes along Vitae Springs Road.

By 4 p.m., the fire was encircled and being mopped up but the evacuations were still in place. No injuries were reported.

Salem Fire Battalion Chief Frank Stephenson said the evacuations levels were then reduced to Level 2 “Be Set” so everyone could go home.

As of Tuesday morning, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office reduced evacuation levels one step further to Level 1 “Be Ready,” advising residents to continue monitoring emergency service websites.

“We’re going to sit on this throughout the night. We’re going to have a couple grass rigs out here and a water tender and we’re going to monitor this,” Stephenson said. “We’ll drive it all night long and come back and get a good look at it tomorrow (Tuesday.)”

The fire was contained relatively quickly and no structures were burned. One tractor trailer was destroyed. It’s not yet clear how many acres burned in the fire.

Zach Yenne has lived in South Salem his whole life. His wife called and told him a fire was just a few miles from their home. He was very worried considering how long we’ve been in a drought.

“It’s definitely drying out,” he said. “The best way I can put it is I remember being a kid and there was green moss everywhere. And now I’m raising kids and I don’t see green moss as much.”

As a newly trained wildland firefighter, Yenne rushed out to the scene to offer his help.

His friends have homes in that area.

“I think of all the work that people put in their properties and being able to lose it within hours,” he told KOIN 6 News.

Yenne knows the pain from personal experience during the Labor Day 2020 fires.

“We have a house in Detroit that partially burned and Philomath Fire actually saved it,” he said.

Those wildfires inspired him to become a wildland firefighter this summer.

“If you can carry a gallon of water, you can put out a fire if you sparked a fire under you car,” Yenne told KOIN 6 News. “If you’re a truck, always have a shovel with you. There’s a lot of ways this can happen and there’s a lot of ways it can be prevented.”

KOIN 6 News will have more information soon.

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