Straus Rancher says Modoc fire was a tragic accident

, Written by Roma Villavicencio, Posted: Fri, June 20 2014 at 10:09 PM, Updated: Fri, June 20 2014 at 11:10 PM

Medford, Ore.--   35 acres of hay, land, and trees burned close to one of Southern Oregon's most precious natural landmarks,The Tablerocks. 

Owner of Straus Ranches, Dalton Straus, said it happened right on the land where he leases a hay field.

"My reaction was is my heart strong enough to stand this, you know...that's a devastating thing to see a fire."

Straus's family has owned Straus Ranches since 1913 and when the unexpected happened Thursday morning, he got a phone call.

"My foreman called and said call 911 Toby's got a fire out here."

His foreman, Bob Thompson saw it all.

"I was feeding the cows and I seen a puff of smoke coming out and I was just waiting to see where it was," said Thompson.

Straus said It turns out the smoke came from the field he leases and that one of his employees hit a rock while mowing the hay causing it to spark.

The Oregon Department of Forestry confirmed Friday the fire was human caused but are still investigation how.

It took dozens of fire fighters hours to contain the blaze.. they had to evacuate the trails and close nearby streets.

Straus said he feels terrible about it.

"We will be held responsible..we are responsible obviously..but it was an accident."

An accident that cost him $3,000 worth of hay. But he said he knows it was more costly than that and he's just thankful no one got hurt.

ODF said the investigation is on-going and would not say if Straus will have to pay a fine. They said last year  277 fires were human caused last year. 

And that if you are found responsible you could end up paying thousands.

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About the Author

Roma Villavicencio

NBC5 News reporter Roma Villavicencio comes from Southern California where she reported for Garden Grove TV Channel 3.

She is a graduate of the journalism/communications program at Cal State Fullerton.

Roma is very proud of her Mexican heritage. She is bi-lingual and looks forward to serving our Hispanic community.

She loves food, music and the San Francisco Giants. She lives by the slogan “viva la vida!”

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