A fast-moving wildfire burned through 100 acres in White City Thursday afternoon, sending up plumes of thick, black smoke seen from as far as Medford. Reports from eyewitnesses said at least three structures were burned, but that was not immediately confirmed.
The fire blew through dry grass and overtook several buildings in the area within an hour, driven by high winds, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Homeowner Marie Poppa said she got a call from her son that flames were approaching their White City house on Atlantic Avenue. She raced home, where she found a team of friends and family protecting her home with a bulldozer and garden hoses.
The fire had stopped at her backyard fence, mere yards from the home. Poppa said her friend Virginia Thies kept a hose on the fence.
"This is a miracle," Poppa said. "This should not be here right now.
"I'm still wrapping my head around it."
Poppa's husband, Brian Poppa, said had he not mowed his six-acre property just last week, his house likely wouldn't be standing.
"As it was, my dad said the flames were like, 10, 12 feet high," Brian Poppa said.
Among the first at the location was Poppa's friend Ray Kniffen Jr., who lives down the street and grabbed a hose on their property to stop the flames.
“They’re good people,” Kniffen said.
Other Good Samaritans included Heather Wiltrout and her daughters, Hannah, 10, and Kailei, 14. The girls asked their mom to stop so they could help with a horse in the area that got loose.
"They're the ones that really wanted to help," Wiltrout said outside a stranger's stable.
The fire began in the backyard of 7890 Atlantic Ave. at about 4 p.m., but fire officials were still piecing together whether the fire started in a structure or grass. It overtook the entire 7000 block of Atlantic Avenue and spread to Bigham Brown Road, they said.
Jackson County Fire District 3 crews worked to protect structures while a helicopter from the Oregon Department of Forestry dropped water on the flames. Medford Fire-Rescue, Fire District 5, IAFF Local 2596, Lake Creek Rural, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Medford police and Eagle Point police also responded.
As of 8:25 p.m., a perimeter had been secured around the fire, according to ODF reports, with mop-up work slated to last through the night.
Fire investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.