Investigators determine Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak fire caused by campfire
With the Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak fire now 100 percent contained and firefighters working on mop-up duty in the smoldering aftermath, officials with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue have determined the initial cause of the blaze.
"Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue investigators have determined the cause of the Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak fire to be an improperly extinguished campfire on private property near the 20000 block of Neugebauer Road," TVF&R spokeswoman Cassandra Ulven said Tuesday afternoon. "We determined this through witness interviews, physical evidence and conditions that first responding firefighters were met with last week. We had multiple investigators working on the fire over the past week."
The wildfire burned 875 acres and destroyed at least three structures, forcing residents to evacuate and filling the skies in the Chehalem Valley with a thick layer of smoke for many days.
Firefighters worked to contain the wildfire nearly 24 hours a day for more than a week, taking extraordinary measures to protect homes in the area along the border between Yamhill and Washington counties. Air tankers doused the fire with water from Henry Hagg Lake to help in the containment.
Residents have since been allowed to return to their homes with the ground and foliage charred around some properties. Most of the evacuation area remains in a Level 2, "Be Set" order while all Level 3, "Go Now" orders were lifted on Sunday, meaning all residents can return to their properties but must remain vigilant and ready to evacuate again if needed.
Residents of the affected area are encouraged to keep an eye out on their property for potential hot spots and report them to TVF&R. A burn ban remains in effect in Yamhill County and was in effect at the time of the wildfire's initial cause.
Neither criminal charges nor a citation will be filed against those responsible for the improperly extinguished campfire, Ulven said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.