The driver and lone passenger were both flown to a Boise hospital early Friday morning, July 23, after their car crashed into a tree along Highway 7 near Sumpter.
The impact started a fire that engulfed the car and spread a short distance into the forest, said Wes Morgan, chief of the Powder River Rural Fire Protection District, who arrived first at the scene.
The driver and passenger are both men, but their names weren’t available by press time.
Morgan said the crash was reported at 3:51 a.m.
The site was near Milepost 28, about 21 miles west of Baker City and about three miles east of the Sumpter junction. Morgan said the crash happened just east of where Huckleberry Loop meets Highway 7.
Morgan, who lives about two and a half miles from the crash site, said the car was engulfed in flames when he arrived, but both the driver and passenger had gotten out.
He said he used the hose from his truck, which carries 100 gallons of water, to knock down the fire, and tended to the two men.
Morgan said the driver appeared to have sustained more severe injuries.
He said other volunteers from his department, the Powder River Rural Fire Protection District, arrived to fight the fire, while volunteers from the Sumpter Fire Department prepared a helicopter landing spot along Hudspeth Lane, about two miles to the east, for a LifeFlight helicopter.
That helicopter picked up the driver and flew him to a Boise hospital, Morgan said.
A Baker City Fire Department ambulance brought the passenger to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City, where a second helicopter took him to Boise, Morgan said.
“Volunteers from Powder River and Sumpter are fantastic,” Morgan said.
He said the fire didn’t spread far from the car, in part because there was some green grass near the base of the ponderosa pine.
Morgan said it was “brisk” in the predawn — a weather station near the Sumpter junction recorded a low temperature of 37 degrees Friday.
Steve Meyer, wildland fire supervisor at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Baker City office, said an ODF crew checked the fire later Friday morning to make sure it’s out.
Meyer said the fire likely would have spread much faster had the crash happened during the afternoon, given recent temperatures in the 80s and gusty winds.