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Firefighters stop suspicious fire from spreading behind Mt. Hood Community College

COURTESY PHOTO: GREG MUHR, GRESHAM FIRE - Gresham Fire extinguished an old tree that had ignited behind Mt. Hood Community College.Gresham firefighters doused a tree that had ignited behind Mt. Hood Community College Thursday evening, Sept. 10, in what officials described as "suspicious."

Around 8 p.m. Gresham Fire & Emergency Services received reports of an old, dead tree that was burning in the natural area to the Northwest of the campus — about 100 yards from the corner of Southeast Stark Street and South Troutdale Road.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire and extinguish it in about an hour. They also scoured the surrounding brush to ensure no embers would lead to future fires.

The fire is being described as suspicious because there was no lightning strike or downed power line to explain its existence.

"Because there were no natural reasons for that tree to catch on fire, it leads us to think it was human-caused," said Patrick McAbery, a spokesman for Gresham Fire. "But human-caused could be accidental, like somebody dropping a cigarette butt or a motorcycle creating a spark."

Gresham Fire will continue to investigate the cause behind the fire, though no lasting damage was done. Across the community the department continues to stay busy, with calls for service staying about 30% higher than normal. Teams of Gresham firefighters are also remaining to help in Clackamas County and southern Oregon, with a focus on saving homes.

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