A cigarette discarded near Advanced Energy on Monday afternoon sparked a wind-fanned brushfire that prompted evacuation of the business and safety reminders from fire officials – including when not to tackle a blaze yourself.
Fire crews were dispatched around 3:45 p.m. to the fire near the business at 20720 Brinson Boulevard, said Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering.
They arrived to find a fire spreading rapidly in heavy brush and juniper on vacant land east of the business, Kettering said.
Employees tried to put out the blaze with several fire extinguishers and also were trying to put out 8- to 10-foot-tall flames with shovels when the first fire crews arrived, the deputy fire marshal said.
Within 20 minutes, the fire was contained to a quarter-acre, as Bend firefighters were assisted by a U.S. Forest Service crew.
An investigation found that a cigarette discarded along the fence line of Advanced Energy was the likely cause of the fire, Kettering said.
Carelessness with cigarettes and other smoking materials is a cause of many fires each year, she said, urging people to use designated smoking areas only, and to dispose of them in a non-combustible container.
Also, Kettering said, “citizens should never attempt to fight a large fire,” especially one spreading rapidly, noting that the workers who wielded shovels had no training, protective gear or proper equipment.
“Employees had gone over the fence and were trying to put it out with shovels,” as tall flames were pushed by the wind, Kettering said. “They put themselves in harm’s way. … This could have resulted in severe injury or even death.”
“Fire extinguishers are designed to be used on small fires, such as a wastebasket fire,” she said. “In larger fires, remember: Life safety comes first. Go to a safe location, away from the fire, ensure that everyone is accounted for, and wait for trained personnel to arrive.”