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Cove Palisades Park manager speaks on destructive fire


The manager of Cove Palisades State Park provided more details and defended his staff Monday in the wake of a 280-acre fire traced to an accidental disposal of unburned charcoal that destroyed two homes and several outbuildings and prompted evacuations on Saturday.

Park Manager Dave Slaght said it was a chaotic scene getting campers out from the Crooked River Campground when the Cove Fire broke out Saturday morning.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

Oregon State Police investigators found the cause of the fire is the improper disposal of barbeque briquettes.

“It appears to be unburned briquettes in the disposal site appeared to be reignited from the high winds that morning,” Slaght said.

Slaght said there’s a whole process to dumping ash. Every campground has a metal fire pit. Volunteers or staff members collect from each site, mix ash with water in metal cans and then dispose of them in an open bunker.

“It’s not covered — it’s a concrete-walled bunker, but apparently the wind picked it up and took it over,” Slaght said.

“I’m shaken up,” he said. “I’m still kind of in awe of what happened.”

Slaght said it could have been a volunteer, staff member or campground visitor who dumped the unburned charcoal briquettes at the disposal site.

“We really don’t know who — you can make assumptions,” he said. “I care for every one of my people, paid or non(-paid). So I don’t throw them under the bus — and I won’t. This case, it was just — it was an accident.”

“My guess is, it was out, but not ‘out out.’ And if you know anything about briquettes, they will reignite,” Slaght added.

“I know a lot of the neighbors are very passionate about us, including me, about our home. I’m relieved that we got it out. I’m relieved nobody was hurt. That’s my No. 1. thing.”

“Property can be replaced — people cannot,” Slaght said. “That’s how I manage the park.”

Incident Commander Frank Jones said he expects the fire will be declared fully contained within the next two days.

Slaght said he will reopen Crooked River Campground first thing Tuesday morning.

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