SELMA, Ore. – A fast-moving wildfire burned five rural homes and forced the evacuation of at least 30 more near an area that had been struck by another wildfire just three years earlier.
About 800 firefighters were called in Friday to beef up a crew of about 200 tackling the fire. The flames had already spread to 1,800 acres of dense forest in southwestern Oregon one day after the fire started, state Forestry Department spokesman Brian Ballou said.
The cause of the wildfire was under investigation, Illinois Valley (search) Fire Chief Harry Rich said.
Larry Watkins watched his two-room house and an attached travel trailer go up in flames.
"I lost everything. It just wiped me right out totally. If you don't see it on me, I lost it," Watkins said.
Sheriff's deputies tied plastic yellow tape to mailboxes of homes as they moved through the area urging people to evacuate. Roads were closed, trailers carrying horses left the area and residents gathered to watch as four air tankers and three helicopters dropped fire retardant and water.
Chip Warner and his wife, Suzie, watched the fire burning along Crook's Creek (search) toward their home.
"My wife grabbed what she could before they evacuated her," said Chip Warner, a construction worker who once served as a volunteer firefighter. "The black smoke means a structure fire. Look at that puff of black smoke. That's right in our neck of the woods."
Warner said he and his wife have spent the last several years thinning the woods on their 10-acre property, inspired by the 2002 Biscuit fire (search), a lightning-sparked blaze that burned 500,000 acres in the rugged Klamath Mountains not far from this rural community.
"When you live in the sticks, it's always an issue, but you don't expect it to happen to you," he said.