Helicopters help suppress fire that burned into Oregon junkyard

August 16, 2020 | 3:34 p.m. PDT

Juniper Fire Bend Oregon junkyard
An S-61 helicopter drops water on the Juniper Ridge Fire, August 15, 2020. Photo by Brendan O’Reilly.

(This article first appeared on Fire Aviation)

 A vegetation fire that spread into an auto wrecking yard Saturday was attacked by firefighters on the assisted by at least five aircraft. Hundreds of homes were threatened including a mobile home park next door.

Footage from KTVZ showed numerous water drops by an Air-Crane, Helicopter 3AC. At least two Single Engine Air Tankers also worked the fire, as well as two other helicopters, an S61 and a third that may have been a Bell 205, said Brendan O’Reilly, Superintendent of the Prineville Hotshots who was on scene.

Helicopter 3AC drops on the Juniper Fire
Helicopter 3AC drops on the Juniper Fire August 15, 2020. Note the shadow of the helicopter on the thick smoke. Screenshot from KTVZ video.

Numerous vehicles were on fire in the wrecking yard producing a thick column of black smoke.

“Maybe 25 acres [were burning] in the wildland around several structures, and then about 10 acres in the junkyard although due to the thick toxic smoke and exploding airbags and tires, we couldn’t accurately map the whole perimeter on the ground,” Superintendent O’Reilly said. “I’d never personally seen helicopters used on a junkyard fire. The helicopters were much more effective than SEATs due to the thick black smoke column, but still couldn’t do much except limit spread to adjacent structures. It took structure engines with SCBAs to make any headway in the junkyard itself, but that was after hours of tires and airbags exploding. It was a very interesting evening.”

Juniper Ridge Fire, August 15, 2020 by Brendan O’Reilly.

“Due to the air attack resources we were able to make an aggressive stop on the fire,” said Trish Connolly, Battalion Chief for Bend County Fire Department. “Today we know that we lost two outbuildings and [and there was] damage to a commercial building.”

Evacuations were in effect while the fire was spreading but were lifted late in the day.

Early reports say the fire started east of the railroad that is just east of the wrecking yard.

Juniper Fire junkyard bend oregon
File photo of the Juniper Fire area, July 27, 2018. Google Earth.

The video below shows several drops by the Air-Crane helicopter, 3AC.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Brendan.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.