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Day: October 20, 2011

Target popcorn machine sparks electrical fire

An electrical fire started by the popcorn machine in Keizer Station Target snack area Wednesday, Oct. 19, drew a Keizer Fire District crew to the scene.
The call was received at 11:12 am for a fire at 6450 Keizer Station Blvd NE in Keizer. Arriving crews did not see any smoke and soon discovered staff had quickly extinguished the small blaze with a fire extinguisher.
The building was in the process of being evacuated when firefighters arrived. Firefighters ensured the fire was fully extinguished and assisted staff members with removal of the smoke from the building. Target was only closed to the public for a few minutes before they were able to reopen.
Three engines, one medic, one duty officer vehicle, one ladder truck, and 13 firefighters responded to the incident. No injuries were reported. Marion County Fire District #1 responded as mutual aid to the call.


John Zielinski, owner of EZ Orchards, stands in his corn maze. The photo was taken atop the hay mountain inside the maze. KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

At first glimpse the EZ Orchards Harvest Festival sounds like a rustic trip to back-in-my-day: There’s hayrides, a petting zoo, cider, pony rides, and the centerpiece: A 2.75-acre corn maze.

The hard work never changes, but times do: Anyone who relies on the sun and soil to make a living can tell you how much technology has changed their industry.

And the corn maze out on this farm just east of Keizer is no exception. John Zielinski, a 1984 McNary High School grad who owns the farm and store, started planning the maze by GPS five years ago.

The planning starts with a sheet of paper. Zielinski plots out that year’s maze, and it’s based on a theme: This year features the farm, with a tractor, ladder and tree evident from the air. In years past it’s taken on the shape of the state, with maze paths mirroring the state’s interstates and highways.

“We try to make our maze educational for the school tours we provide,” Zielinski said.

The corn is planted yearly around the end of June or first week of July. The stalks shoot up to at least 10 feet tall before the festival.

“Usually it seems slow at first, then it takes off,” Zielinski said. “Corn loves heat and water. … This year we have really tall corn.”

His friend John Springer, a surveyor, comes over from John Day after a few weeks of growing and helps plot with GPS surveying equipment and irrigation flags. The flags let everyone else helping know where to cut.

“This thing is accurate to, probably, within a half-inch,” Zielinski said.

Prior to that, Zielinski and Springer plotted the maze via compass. Think of the center as the hub of a wagon wheel. Using the compass, they’d mark turns by measuring distance from the hub.

“The GPS is a lot smoother, a lot quicker,” Zielinski said.

Signs inside the maze point out facts for visitors. This year it’s tidbits about agriculture. Did you know 99 percent of the nation’s hazelnuts are grown in Oregon? You would if you took the maze tour.

But don’t worry: There’s plenty of fun and games inside the maze, including a teepee, a giant hay mountain and a slide suitable for almost all ages.

And Zielinski prefers that visitors be able to find their way out if they so choose.

“We have enough exits,” he said. “Ours isn’t so much about getting lost as it is education about Oregon’s agriculture,” he said. “My theory is if people get too frustrated they’ll just plow through the corn, which we try to avoid.”

Katelyn and Kristina Baldwin came up from Springfield to visit the festival with their grandparents.

“I like to go on the structures in the corn maze,” said Kristina, 7.

“And you can find a lot of friends if you get lost,” added Katelyn, 9.

Once the festival is over, the corn is left in the field. It’s field corn primarily used for feed, as opposed to the sweet corn you’d have on the cob at the dinner table, he said. Geese pick at it during the winter, and it’s plowed over in the spring.

They used to give the corn to a cattle farm, he said, but the field was too small to make harvesting it viable.

It costs $3 to tour the maze during the week and $7 on weekends; weekend entry includes general admission to the Harvest Festival.