Fire ignites 500-gallon gas tank: 'That's a spectacular explosion'

EUGENE, Ore. - Flames 120 feet high and multiple explosion greeted firefighters as a fire destroyed a home and other structures on the flanks of Spencer Butte on Thursday.

"There's ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir that are 120 feet tall that are burned to the top, so there were big flames and big fire initially," Battalion Chief Scott Bishop said. "We heard multiple booms lots of explosions even once we were on scene that went on for quite a while."

One of the explosions came from a 500-gallon tank of liquefied petroleum gas.

"That's a spectacular explosion," Bishop said. "It's very dangerous, and we've got the debris field around it.

"We will investigate that thoroughly afterwards. I don't know if that was subsequent to the initial fire or played a part in spreading the fire."

No injuries were reported. The cause is under investigation.

The fire destroyed several structures, vehicles and storage units.

"At least on structure fully involved, it looks like probably two or three smaller structures, also large vehicles, at least a couple of buses, maybe a motorhome, lots of debris and stuff that looked like it may have been stored up over a period of years," Bishop said.

More than 60 firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading.

"We hit it with what we call a blitz attack," Bishop said. "We applied most of our forces on the ground with all of our machinary and equipment to keep the fire out of the surrounding timber. That was the primary; we call it a defensive mode.

"We knew that the building was fully engulfed at that point, and then with access issues, water supply issues and so forth, the primary goal was to keep the fire from spreading up the butte."

Crews brought the fire under control but expect it to burn through the night. Fox Hollow Road will be closed near the scene of the fire, between Kline and Owl roads south of Donald Street.

The area is surrounding by forested private property and the City of Eugene's Ridgeline Park System, which includes Spencer Butte.

It took some time to locate the fire after the first reports of smoke.

"We didn't have a solid location, so we kind of started surrounding the butte," Bishop said. "We knew it was coming from the timberland on the north side of Spencer butte."

Bishop said a helicopter deployed by the Oregon Department of Forestry help prevent embers from setting the forest on fire.

"Things came together and we were fortunate the wind was in our favor," Bishop said. "We had adequate resources, companies were in position, so we were well prepared and we were able to defeat the fire fairly quickly."

There were several houses on Cline Road south of the fire that were temporary evacuated as a precaution.

The evacuations were handled by Eugene Police and have since been rescinded.

Fox Hollow Road remains closed just south of Owl Road. Cline Road is open and accessible from the south.

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