A 10-acre fire burning in an auto wrecking yard in Cave Junction sends plumes of black smoke into the air Wednesday. [ODF photo]

Separate fires torch 200 cars, give firefighter a fat lip

In addition to wildfires, firefighting crews tackled two other blazes Wednesday night — one that burned about 200 cars in Cave Junction, and another that gave a Medford firefighter a fat lip.

The Cave Junction fire started in the afternoon after two electrical poles "snapped in half with downed lines" near the intersection of Highway 199 and Airport Drive, said Illinois Valley Fire District public information officer Jason Bayless. Flames spread both north and south, torching about 10 acres and 200 cars at a nearby salvage yard.

What caused the damage to the power poles was not immediately available.

Crews eventually called for a third alarm, which summoned a task force from Jackson County that included engines and personnel from Medford Fire-Rescue, Applegate Fire District 9 and Jackson County Fire District 5, according to a news release. The blaze shut down Highway 199 for about four hours while crews extinguished the fire, and nearby residents were placed under a Level 2 — "get set" — evacuation notice.

Firefighters will continue to conduct smoke checks through today.

At about 10:20 p.m., a fire roared to life on a vehicle parked at Harry & David Field, further delaying the Medford Rogues' playoff game against the Portland Pickles, which had stalled at the top of the eighth inning because of a power outage.

During efforts to beat back the flames, one of the pneumatic struts on the vehicle's back hatch heated up and exploded, barreling out of the flames and striking a Medford firefighting engineer in the face. The impact gave him a fat lip, but he was otherwise unhurt, according to Medford Fire Deputy Chief Justin Bates.

"They’re a compressed cylinder," Bates said. "They’ll explode, and they’ll launch out of there like a missile."

The cause has not yet been determined.

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