Conditions have been so dry in Oregon this summer that homeowners have been warned that more yellow jackets than usual are buzzing around yards looking for water.
“We are in a drought now where a lot of the potential food resources for the yellow jackets have dried up in the surrounding landscape,” Oregon State University entomologist Gail Langellotto told KVAL in Eugene.
On Thursday, one man in suburban Portland who found an active nest on his property took matters into his own hands to kill the yellow jackets, “social” members — aggressive, too — of the wasp family, according to National Geographic.
But his sting operation went awry.
He mixed a potion of gasoline and oil and tried to burn the nest down, The Oregonian reported. The fire near West Linn quickly spread way beyond the nest — dry conditions, remember — and people started calling 911 when smoke rose in a column above the field.
By the time Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters arrived, they found an “active fire covering more than three acres with potential to spread into nearby trees,” the fire department wrote on its Facebook page, where it posted a video of the fire fight.
The fire scorched a lot of earth but apparently didn’t kill all the yellow jackets.
Some of them were still there and bugged the firefighters trying to douse the flames.
“Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the blaze before it reached the trees and burned nearly four acres,” fire officials said on Facebook. “In addition to hot temperatures, firefighters had to contend with an active yellow jacket nest in the area.”
In a statement to local media, Fire Marshal Steve Forster said firefighters understand how quickly fire can spread, “but I believe most people are unaware of the potential destruction fire can cause.
“When dry vegetation, low humidity, and hot temperatures are added to the mix, we have conditions for extreme fire behavior. This can cause a small spark to become a big problem.”
If the fire had spread to the surrounding trees, firefighters would have faced a much bigger problem, fire department spokesman Stefan Myers told The Oregonian, cautioning homeowners to use care in doing the simplest tasks around the home, such as mowing the lawn, during dry spells.
“All those things have much larger and more intense consequences with the addition of dry fuels all around us and throughout the community,” he told the newspaper.
Just one day before the yellow jacket fire, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue shared a video on its Facebook page featuring Tom Fields, fire prevention coordinator with the Oregon Department of Forestry, who asked the public for help.
“We are currently facing extreme fire danger conditions throughout this great state and human-caused fires are on the rise,” Fields said.
Some comments on social media about Thursday’s fire were unprintable.