JUNCTION CITY, Ore. – On Thursday, Junction City fire officials began a new phase of their response to a large fire at Wood Recovery in Junction City that took several days to bring under control. According to Chief Brandon Nicol, with the fire now contained, the investigation is beginning to figure out how it started.
“It's a matter of looking for anybody that might have seen anything at the time of the fire, that either seems suspicious or maybe not suspicious,” Nicol said. “It could have been organic in nature, and we just need to try and put together those pieces and talk to the people that might have been in and around the area to see what they saw before the fire department got there.”
Junction City Fire handed control of the property back to Wood Recovery and an adjoining company on Wednesday. Nicol said the companies are now in charge of monitoring the logs and stumps which are still smoldering. Sprinklers have also been installed and are pumping water on the materials to keep them wet.
At one point, the fire was within a couple hundred feet of the mill itself. Nicol said there’s always a certain amount of risk when running a business like this.
“There's never going to be a way to completely eliminate these things. They're dealing with products that can organically decompose. Anytime you have organic decomposition, you have the potential for spontaneous combustion,” Nicol said.
Still, this is the company’s third fire since 2017. Nicol said the fire department was called out for a fire at the company just a month ago, and was preparing to make notifications to the business about ways to reduce the fire risk when the large fire broke out Sunday. He said they’ve had conversations with the owners about fire safety before, but there’s only so much the department can do.
“All we can do is note any hazards, deficiencies, and you know, give them an opportunity to remedy those, but we… don't have the enforcement to actually make it happen,” Nicol said.
However, Nicol is requesting the Office of the State Fire Marshal to assist with the investigation into the blaze. As a division of Oregon State Police, the state fire marshal can wield more enforcement power.