Brush fire started by illegal burning, one firefighter hospitalized with heat exhaustion

Brush fire near St Helens - Photo from Columbia Fire

Columbia River Fire and Rescue crews contained a brush fire in St. Helens Tuesday afternoon that was threatening 11 homes. One of them belonged to the Hastings family.

As the flames inched closer to his property, Aaron Hastings whipped out his phone to document the terrifying moments.

"It was probably the craziest adrenaline rush I've ever had in my life," said Hastings. "Honestly, it was the craziest thing ever. It was so sudden and out of nowhere. One minute I was just sitting there, the next minute there's a full on fire in front of my house."

The flames, he said, were only about 100 yards away. He wished he was a bit more organized.

"I was actually scrambling around the house and running around thinking about everything I could grab and, of course, everything was misplaced," he said.

His dad, Darren Hastings, called him on his way back from work after a friend texted him about the fire.

"It was a scary text to get and the reaction my son had was scary as well. It was a long drive from Portland," said Darren Hastings.

When he got home, his biggest nightmare unfolded in front of his eyes.

"It's something we've always worried about living here. When you live out in the woods, out in the country, you always worry about fire. I certainly didn't think it was going to happen this early," he said.

He added that the smoke was so thick, you couldn't see past the trees. Ten neighboring homes were also threatened. Cheryl Engstonr, a Scappoose Fire spokesperson, said the fire was started by someone burning a pile of logging slash illegally. The fire grew out of control, and the hot temperatures and high winds helped quickly spread it. The fire was reported around 4 p.m. near Pittsburg and Gensman Road. The fire was contained within three hours.

It only burned two acres, and didn't get to the Hastings' home, but they'll be monitoring it closely overnight.

"We will be certainly watching it. I don't know if it's a big threat, but it's still a threat," said Darren Hastings.

Officials said a firefighter was hospitalized with likely heat exhaustion. No other injuries or damage were reported.

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