Current situation

Hot, dry weather continues to dry out fuels. That makes any fires that do get started likely to spread quickly and be harder to put out. As a result, many ODF districts and forest protective associations are tightening restrictions on activities linked to fire starts. For example, fire danger in the Douglas Forest Protective Association and The Dalles Unit of ODF's Central Oregon District is now rated as extreme. Check ODF's fire restrictions and closures web page for the latest details at

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oregon Department of Forestry Wildfire Update - Sunday morning, August 28,2011

This is the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) fire update for Sunday morning, August 28, 2011. It also contains some additional general background information on terms that are often used by firefighting agencies relating to RED FLAG WARNINGS and FIRE WEATHER WATCHES, and INCIDENT MANAGEMENT TEAMS.

Over the past 24 hours, some lightning strikes continued in various locations throughout Oregon, although fewer than have been occurring since the middle of this week. However, the following RED FLAG WARNINGS that were issued yesterday afternoon, remain in effect, due to the possibility of abundant lighting:
• Weather Zones in Central Oregon – through 3 p.m. today, August 28, 2011
• Weather Zones in Eastern Oregon – through 11 p.m. today, August 28, 2011

General information about Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches are included today farther down in this update in the FIRE WEATHER section.

These lighting storms throughout the state this past week have ranged from being accompanied by some to no precipitation and have resulted in many fire starts. The majority of these starts have been contained, with a few fires resulting in extended attack. Crews from all fire protection agencies in Oregon, including the Oregon Department of Forestry, continue to work actively and cooperatively in suppressing new fire starts, on extended attack on those fires that necessitate it, and at patrol, reconnaissance, and detection to locate any new holdover fires from earlier lightning, as well as on new fire starts as they occur, in addition to monitoring those fires that have been contained and are in patrol status.

Northeast Oregon District, Pendleton Unit: The Elephant Rock Fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. on August 28, burning in steep terrain on ODF-protected lands, seven miles southeast of Weston, in timber, brush, and grass. This fire is active, running uphill, and not yet contained, and the department is closely monitoring what could ultimately pose a threat to some structures and outbuildings near the area. This fire is currently roughly estimated at approximately 500 acres and the cause is under investigation. Because of the active nature of this fire and the potential threat to resources and property, the ODF Type 3 Team that was managing the now-contained Dead Horse Complex earlier this week in Central Oregon has been transferred to this fire. When this fire was initially reported very early this morning, resources assigned to the fire were six engines, two tenders, and three dozers. More resources have since been assigned, are reporting, and actively engaged in fighting the Elephant Rock Fire.

Central Oregon District, Prineville Unit: The Cat Mtn Fire, reported on early Friday evening, August 26th, burning 21 miles northeast of Prineville, is lined and in mop-up, at 13.2 acres. Some resources will be released from this fire this evening. Unless the situation changes, this will be the last report on this fire.

Conditions on many of Oregon’s forests are classified as EXTREME. Regulated Use Restrictions are in place and increasing throughout most locations in the state. Please check with your local ODF office before heading out to recreate or engage in other forest activities, so that you are aware of these restrictions and what they mean to you and your use of Oregon’s forests.

Bow Hunting Season: Notice from the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center regarding the start of bow hunting season:

“With many fires newly contained and the potential for others to start, hunters heading out bow season should use caution when heading out to their units. They should avoid camping in or hiking through areas with active fire, watch for increased fire traffic on forest and rangeland roads and should watch for dangerous burned out stump-holes and snags in recently burned areas. All hunter warming fires and campfires should be completely extinguished when not attended.”

References are made throughout ODF wildfire updates and many other fire agencies media releases to “Types” of Incident Management Teams. The Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center recently released the following very useful general information on Incident Management Teams – the system that is so critical in Oregon (and across the United States) for management of wildfires and other incidents:

“. . . Incident management teams operate at the local, State and National Level and respond to all types of disasters including wildfires. Other incidents handled by Incident Management Teams include helping manage the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, working 9/11 incidents in New York and working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the Hurricane Katrina response.

“Wildfire Teams are range from Type III to Type I, with Type I teams managing the most complex incidents. Complexity is based on the number of issues that firefighters and the team may face when suppressing a fire. These issues range from private land and homes near the fire, special status species or other critical resource problems, multiple fires burning in an area, the overall size of an incident, and the number of people involved. Type III Teams generally respond locally in Central Oregon, Type II Teams typically respond within a Region or State, and Type I Teams are available to respond anywhere in the nation.

“Teams are put together in advance and members usually commit to being on a team for three year. The personnel on a team include an incident commander, as well as staff to manage safety, public information, operations, planning, logistics, and finance. With several hundred to more than a thousand personnel working a fire, all of these team positions are critical to establishing safe and effective operations to suppress a wildfire and building the fire camp that feeds, sleeps, and cares for everyone working on the incident.”

In the past week, several large fires have broken out in Oregon. Many of the fires were caused by lightning, and most of the fires are east of the Cascade Range. Two of these fires have large-fire interagency Incident Management Teams assigned.

More information on many of these large fires is available on the on the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center’s website at:

Information on fires burning in Central Oregon is also always available on the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center’s website at:, PH: 541/416-6811.

The Hancock Fire Complex (Incident #511), a group of fires burning near Clarno, is reported this morning at 33,000 acres. The Central Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team (COIMT) – a Type II Team (Incident Commander Mark Rapp) - assumed command of this complex on Friday morning, August 26th, and the team’s Inciweb site is now up and running at: . The general information phone number for the team is: 541-787-4322 – Extension 2009.

Several fires on the Warm Springs Reservation are part of the newly named High Cascades Complex. The Oregon-California Interagency Incident Management Team (ORCA), a Type II Team, assumed command of this complex. Information for these fires is available at 541-553-8190.

For information on wildfires in all jurisdictions within Oregon, go to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center website, , or to the national Incident Information System website, .

The Oregon Department of Forestry is responsible for fire protection on private and state-owned forestland, and on a limited amount of other forestlands, including those owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in western Oregon. However, because fires starting on one ownership type may spread to others, and because of the need to share firefighting resources, agencies commonly work closely together.

This update focuses primarily on firefighting activity on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected land, and on the department's role as a partner in fighting major fires that start on land protected by other agencies.

Fire statistics are for the current year and the average over the past 10 years for the 16 million acres of private and public forestland protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry:

January 1, 2011, through today:*
Lightning-caused fires: 87 fires burned approximately 264 acres
Human-caused fires: 322 fires burned approximately 422 acres
Total: 409 fires burned approximately 687 acres

*Yearly fire statistics represent numbers input into the ODF-reporting system on fires on ODF-protected lands. Due to the recent intense fire activity, information on many of the recent fires, particularly those from lightning storms that have occurred during this past week, have not yet been input and included in above fire statistics. They will be included as they become available.

10-year average (January 1 through the present date in the year):
Lightning-caused fires: 274 fires burned approximately 20,686 acres
Human-caused fires: 525 fires burned approximately 3,559 acres
Total: 799 fires burned approximately 24,245 acres

What exactly is a Red Flag Warning?
The National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches to alert fire agencies of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity. During these times, extreme caution is urged to be used by all members of the public, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.

A Red Flag Warning is the highest forecast warning issued by the National Weather Service to warn of conditions that are ideal for wildland fire ignition and propagation. When humidity is very low, wildland fuels are extremely dry, and when high winds are accompanied with multiple lightning strikes, the Red Flag Warning becomes a critical statement for firefighting agencies, which often alter their staffing, equipment resources, and firefighting tactics dramatically to accommodate the forecast risk. To the public, a Red Flag Warning means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours.
A separate but less imminent forecast may include a Fire Weather Watch, which is issued to alert fire and land management agencies to the possibility that Red Flag conditions may exist beyond the first forecast period (12 hours). The watch is issued generally 12 to 48 hours in advance of the expected conditions, but can be issued up to 72 hours in advance if the National Weather Service is reasonably confident. The term “Fire Weather Watch” is headlined in the routine forecast and remains in effect until it expires, is canceled, or upgraded to a Red Flag Warning.

The weather criteria for Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings varies with each Weather Service Office’s warning area based on the local vegetation type, topography, and distance from major water sources, but usually includes the daily vegetation moisture content calculations, expected afternoon high temperature, afternoon minimum relative humidity, daytime wind speed, and/or the prediction of lightning.

For current fire weather information, go to:

Jeri Chase, ODF Incident Information Officer
Fire Duty Officer Pager #503-370-0403

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The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments you have about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity. You are also welcome to contact us by email at:

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters are predicting the summer of 2018 will see above average temperatures and below average rainfall. Drought has already been declared in a number of counties in eastern and southern Oregon, with northwest Oregon also unusually dry for June. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

What we do

Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


About Me

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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.