SAMS VALLEY — Fire destroyed a mobile home and a large shed on Antioch Road before scorching nearly 8 acres of grassland Friday afternoon.
The blaze raised a huge column of smoke visible across the valley. The quick-moving flames sparked a hurried response from fire crews, who worked in 95-degree heat to contain the fire before it spread to nearby homes in the 14000 block of Antioch Road northeast of Central Point.
Don Lori, who lives across the road from the fire area, went outside to let out his dog at 2:30 p.m. when he spotted large flames coming from the top of the mobile home's roof.
"I saw someone with a garden hose trying to put it out, but it was too far gone," Lori said.
The fire leveled the mobile home before spreading to a large shed with a metal roof. The shed collapsed as the flames spread to a field of dry grass behind the property.
The fire burned rapidly through the grass and torched a Ford F-150 pickup and a van on its way to a fence.
Jackson County Fire District No. 3 attacked the blaze from all angles.
"We had fire spreading in different directions," District 3 Deputy Fire Marshal Don Hickman said. "It really spreads our resources thin when that happens."
Some District 3 responders rushed from an acre grass fire on Scenic Road in Central Point to fight the Antioch Road blaze.
"On a hot day like this it is really taxing to the firefighters," Hickman said. "Especially when they don't have time to cool down between calls."
Several firefighters coming from the Scenic Road blaze were examined by Mercy Flights paramedics before they were allowed to attack the fire.
"If their body systems are elevated we hold them back for a while before letting them back in," Hickman said.
A firefighter needs to have a body temperature of less than 100.6 degrees and a heart rate of under 100 beats per minute prior to entering the fray. Otherwise, they risk heat exhaustion, Hickman said.
The flames sent large chunks of gray ash in every direction and stirred up hundreds of aggressive flying bugs that bit firefighters and a number of people watching the action from across the road.
"These firefighters need hazard pay because of these bugs," Lori said. "I'm heading inside to get away from this heat and the bugs."
Hickman said he didn't know the bugs' scientific name, but noted firefighters had given them a derogatory one.
"If you fight fires outside you have to deal with them, but we don't like them," Hickman said.
A helicopter hauling large buckets of water dipped from a nearby pond doused the flames for nearly an hour.
The crews were able to begin mopping up the scene at about 5 p.m.
The 14000 block of Antioch Road remained closed well into the evening as crews extinguished the remaining hot spots.
The owner of the mobile home declined to comment at the scene.
Hickman said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire crews would monitor the scene throughout the night in case a hot spot flared up, he said.
"You can't turn you back on these, that's for sure," he said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail email@example.com.