Firefighting costs

The Oregon Dept. of Forestry has expended a net of $30.5 million for large fires as of mid-August. With more wildfire activity possible in the weeks ahead, large-fire costs could grow before season's end.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Oregon Dept. of Forestry fire update - Aug. 1, 2013 afternoon

This is an Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) afternoon fire update for August 1, 2013.

Note: In addition to current major fire updates, this afternoon’s Fire Update includes several important fire news items that can be found under “More Fire News,” a new Wildfire Smoke Forecast section, as well as information about recent lightning.

Fire statistics will not be included until further notice.


FIRES ON OREGON DEPT. OF FORESTRY-PROTECTED LANDS

Southern Oregon continues to be the focus of firefighting activity in the state with numerous large fires burning in the region.

Douglas Complex
The 28,496-acre, lightning-caused Douglas Complex fires are burning seven miles north of Glendale in Douglas County, and are 7 percent contained.

The Douglas Complex is now the highest priority nationally for resources.

Approximately 470 homes are threatened. The Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal is managing the fire jointly with Oregon Department of Forestry.

Oregon National Guard air and ground resources continue to be mobilized to the Douglas Complex, some will be helping with road and traffic control. The Governor has declared a State of Emergency for Josephine County.

Douglas Complex Special Message: In Douglas County evacuations are still in effect for Reuben Road, Mt. Reuben Road and McCullough Creek Road. Josephine County is also continuing evacuations for Poorman Creek, Lower Graves Creek Road, Grave Creek Road, and Lower Wolf Creek.

Current Situation: The Douglas Complex currently consists of Milo, on the east side of Interstate 5; Rabbit Mountain, on the west side of Interstate 5 and northwest of Glendale, Dad’s Creek, west of Glendale, and the Farmer’s Fire south of Glendale.

The Oregon Military Department and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management are assisting with response to the Douglas Complex. The Oregon Army National Guard is providing aviation assets at the request of the Oregon Department of Forestry. Five aircraft are prepared to help with fire suppression including three HH-60M Blackhawk helicopters, one CH-47 Chinook helicopter, and one UH-72 Lakota. Approximately 125 Soldiers along with 26 high mobility multi-wheeled vehicles are also slated to be called-up on State Active Duty within the next 72 hours to assist with traffic control in the evacuated areas.

Milo
Milo Branch is a group of smaller fires, all less than 20 acres in size. Firefighters are patrolling these fires today. No further control problems are expected on these fires.

Rabbit Mountain
Near Middle Creek, firefighters continue to make progress on line construction as well as setting up hoses and water for use in extinguishing heat along the fire line. The containment line held yesterday with some mop up started.

Dad’s Creek
The south end of the fire continues to burn actively near Grave Creek. Structural engines worked with hand crews to contain the spread of fire on the West end of Grave Creek road. Overnight, firefighters working in the Cow Creek Road area made good progress. Crews have been working to scout the areas on lower Wolf Creek to Grave Creek to provide structure protection needs. The structure protection task forces assigned to that division reported good results with continued active fire behavior.

In Josephine County, overhead personnel spent a large part of the day accessing the area and reported challenging terrain, limited access, and active fire conditions. Approximately 30 homes are being threatened in the Grave Creek, Poorman Creek, and Lower Wolf Creek areas.
Firefighters contained a spotfire that crossed Lower Grave Creek Road yesterday afternoon. Today, they will be removing any vegetation that may be considered a fire hazard around structures in Poorman Creek.

The fire is expected to burn actively again in the afternoon when winds start to affect fire movement. Areas around Glendale will see less smoke in the area today due to the change of wind direction from the northwest.

Weather: The red flag warning was lifted yesterday with the lightning staying to the east. Today, a cooler marine weather pattern is expected to move into the area. Temperatures will be lower and humidity a little higher. Winds will pick up in the afternoon, coming from the west and rotating northwest with gusts up to 20miles per hour. A drying trend is forecasted for the weekend.

Evacuations and Closures:

• Cow Creek Road from Riddle into the fire area and from Glendale into the fire has been closed. The public is asked to honor the road blocks and not interfere with firefighters working in the area.
• Evacuations have been ordered for McCullough Creek Road, Reuben Road, and Mt. Reuben Road in Douglas County, and Poorman Creek Road, Lower Grave Creek, Grave Creek, and Lower Wolf Creek in Josephine County.
• Residences in the area are still considered threatened. This means evacuations could be necessary at some point in the future. Any official evacuation orders would be issued by the Douglas County or Josephine County Sheriff’s Offices.

Fire Information Meetings: A public meeting is planned in Wolf Creek tonight at 6:00 pm at the Wolf Creek County Park. This is a change from the original planned location due to the capacity of the community center.

Public Safety/Prevention: Firefighters are contending with hazards including falling boulders and trees and old mine shafts, which are affecting access into some of the fire area. Values at risk include homes, commercial timberland, and critical wildlife habitat. There are no reports of homes burned. Two minor injuries have been reported. Two outbuildings have burned.

To address any concern as a result of smoke in the area, an air quality sensor has been installed in Glendale. Go to www.oregonsmoke.blogspot.com to track air quality measurements.

Douglas Forest Protective Association has increased prevention restrictions to IFPL 3, where a 1 p.m. shutdown is in effect. Public restrictions are also in place. Check www.dfpa.net before commencing your activities.

Resources include 52 Type 2 hand crews, 78 engines, 18 bulldozers, 19 water tenders and overhead personnel, as well as National Guard and State Fire Marshal Office resources. Air resources include 3 Type 1 helicopters, 6 Type 2 helicopters, and 2 Type 3 helicopters, plus 5 National Guard helicopters.

Brimstone Fire
The lightning-caused Brimstone Fire is located 7 miles northwest of Merlin and 5 miles west of Sunny Valley and is now 1,711 acres. Crews continued aggressive suppression efforts and containment of the fire is now estimated at 15 percent.

Note: The current evacuation contingency plan and new GIS data from the county increased the number of residences and outbuildings threatened to 1640 and 1492 respectively.

No evacuation orders have been issued but some road closures are in effect:

• Hog Creek Road is closed at Merlin-Galice Road;
• Quartz Creek Road is closed at Hugo Road;
• Angora Creek Road is inaccessible due to Graves Creek Road closure

Structural fire protection personnel have assessed homes should an evacuation become necessary.

This has been a difficult area to control due to the limited access and steep terrain; there is also limited visibility and lack of aircraft support due to smoke inversion from the Douglas Complex. Today burn crews are going take advantage of the favorable NW wind and weather conditions and back burn along the NW corner of the fire.

The current strategy is to strengthen control lines and completely encircle the fire using additional fire hoses and tenders to provide water for hot spots. Fire is currently 75% lined. Extreme fire conditions still threaten the control lines. Spotting occurred last night and into the morning, up to 2 acres in size, but crews were able to control them. As a contingency, a secondary fire line was created through a connecting network of newly opened roads and established roads. The fire team is preparing for increased winds and a warming trend starting Friday that could affect fire behavior and pose hazardous conditions for firefighters.

Approximately 700 personnel and firefighters are now assigned to the fire under the supervision of the Oregon Department of Forestry. Resources include 26 crews, 27 engines, seven bulldozers, and 15 water tenders. No injuries to fire personnel have been reported since the start of the fire.

Fire suppression costs to date are approximately $4 million. The fire is being managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry with many cooperators including the Office of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Land Management, Josephine County Emergency Services, Josephine County Forestry, Josephine County Sheriff’s Department, Josephine County Search and Rescue, Rural Metro Fire Department, City of Grants Pass, and the National Weather Service.

No evacuations have been announced for residential areas around the fire area, but structural fire protection personnel have assessed homes should an evacuation become necessary. To find out more about evacuation planning, call the Josephine County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at (541) 474-5305.

Firefighters ask that the public not use roads in the Upper Quartz Creek Rd and Hogs Creek Rd areas because these roads are narrow and are being heavily used by fire engines, trucks hauling water, and bulldozers.

Information about the Brimstone Fire can be learned by calling (541) 479-3842.

Information about other fires in southwest Oregon can be had by calling the Joint Information Center (JIC) at (541) 471-6620.

Big Windy Complex
The lightning-caused Big Windy Complex is now estimated at 3,703 acres. The Complex consists of the Big Windy (Josephine County), Calvert Peak and Jenny Fires (Curry County) and is located on Medford District, Bureau of Land Management lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. It is burning in steep river canyon country and is 0 percent contained.

Location is approximately 8 miles northwest of Galice; the north part of the fire is within two miles of Winkel Bar on the Rogue River. Fire spotting has been a concern. Pacific NW IMT2 is assigned to this fire. The fire is currently moving in a southeasterly direction and is still south of the Rogue River; it has progressed down to the south near the old Biscuit fire scar.

News & Highlights for the Big Windy Complex:

The Wild and Scenic Rogue River from Gold Beach upstream to Blossom Bar Rapid is still open for business and skies are currently smoke-free.
There are NO evacuations orders in place for Agness or Gold Beach.

Josephine and Curry Counties have swept the closed portion of the Rogue River to ensure no rafters remain. Members of the Merlin Rappel Crew, assisted by Curry County, swept 21.5 miles of the Rogue River Trail to ensure no hikers remain.

Fire operations personnel are looking for opportunities to hold the fire should it cross over to the north/east side of the Rogue River. It will be challenging to hold any advance without air support, which is currently very limited due to poor visibility.

A marine influence will remain over the area the next couple of days, after which the inversion will start to lift and smoke will begin to clear out. This change will also prompt an increase in fire behavior.

Oregon Governor Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for Josephine County, allowing the Oregon National Guard to provide assistance to fires in the area. The National Guard will be providing assistance with additional air resources as well as personnel.

National Guard personnel will assist with closure checkpoints at roads near the fire, including:

2308 @ 33 Agness Road (Burnt Ridge)
23 Road @ 33 Road (west end of Bear Camp)
2402 Road @ 22 Road
BLM 34-8-36 @ Galice Road (east end of Bear Camp)

The National Guard is being logistically supported by Jackson County; the guard station in Agness will be utilized as a base camp operation for National Guard resources assigned to the Big Windy Complex.

Closures in Place:
The Bear Camp Road is officially closed with closure orders and maps issued by the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management/Grants Pass Interagency Office and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest/Gold Beach Ranger District. The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office and the Curry County Sheriff’s Office are providing staffing at the closure points and signs are in place.

Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek to Rogue River Ranch is closed.
The BLM portion of the Wild Section of the Rogue River is closed from Graves Creek to Mule Creek due to extreme fire conditions and public health and safety issues.

Cooperating agencies & partners: Oregon Department of Forestry, Medford District Bureau of Land Management, Josephine County, Curry County, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Jackson County.

The Ferguson Mountain Fire in Eastern Oregon, Lake Unit, was reported Sunday; this 15-acre fire is now 100 percent lined and is 98 percent mopped up.

The lightning-caused Murray Peak Fire burning in grass and sagebrush southwest of Baker is 25 acres and was reported to Salem Dispatch today. The fire is already fully lined, and is being monitored.

A 10-acre lightning-caused fire burning in timber and brush on the Central Oregon District was reported last night threatening 12 homes in the Squaw Creek Canyon Estates 6 miles northeast of Sisters. This fire is now fully lined.

The 503-acre Davis Creek Fire that was burning in the John Day Unit of the Central Oregon District is 100 percent contained. The fire was burning in grass and timber fuels. The John Day Unit is also responding to a number of small fires today. There are still hot spots on Davis Creek and the fire is in patrol status. Cause is under investigation.

FIRES BURNING ON OTHER LANDS
The 3,948-acre, lightning-caused Whiskey Complex fire burning in timber six miles east of Tiller on the Tiller Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest is 15 percent contained. The Complex consists of 4 fires, they are the Whisky Fire (2,250 acres), the Big Brother Fire (250 acres), the Buckeye Fire (550 acres) and the Smith Ridge Fire (30 acres). Continued dry weather is forecast. The incident is being managed by a unified command: Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team and the Douglas Forest Protective Association. For more information go to: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3562/

The 1,970-acre lightning-caused Labrador Fire (USFS) is burning in an area south and west of the Illinois River in inaccessible country approximately 30 miles southwest of Grants Pass, Oregon. Fire behavior yesterday continued to be moderated by smoke over the area. Suppression efforts are aimed at allowing the fire to slowly back down to the Illinois River on the south and east edges.

Suppression efforts are hampered by steep terrain and little road access, fire crews are also dealing with significant poison oak issues. Crews are continuing structural protection in Oak Flat and on private lands, and indirect fire line preparation. The structure protection at Oak Flat in Josephine County is nearly complete and fire fighters remain spike camped in the area in case they are needed.

*A public meeting will be held at the Josephine County building at 102 South Redwood Highway in Cave Junction at 7 pm tonight. Information will be shred along with maps and presentations by fire managers.

Continued limited use of aircraft due to smoke over the fire, aviation resources being made available to other fires and will be re-engaged when smoke clears. Trail and road closures are in place. For more information go to: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3563/

The 108-acre Browns Creek Fire burning 17 miles northwest of Gilchrist near Browns Creek on Wickiup Reservoir is 100 percent contained. All campgrounds are now open and Forest Road 42 was opened last night.

MORE FIRE NEWS

Falling snag causes firefighter fatality and injures another
From a Deschutes NF News Release:
Two members of a falling crew working on a fire in the Mt. Washington Wilderness near Dugout Lake on the Sisters Ranger District were injured by a falling snag early today. One of the individuals died at the scene and the other was transported with injuries to St. Charles Medical Center.

The injuries occurred as the tree fallers worked to suppress a fire caused by a lightning storm, which began early yesterday afternoon and continued through the evening. The injury was reported at 9:13 a.m. The fallers worked for R&K Water Services out of Bonney Lake, Wa.

Rappel crews and a helicopter responded to the accident and called for an ambulance. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of the accident at this time. Media can meet public information officers at the junction of Forest Road 242 and Forest Road 1029.

More information will be forthcoming as available.

Lightning Activity around the State
Central Oregon Dispatch Center reported more than 893 lightning strikes last night and dozens of fire starts from last evening’s lightning (all jurisdictions) in the central Oregon area. None of the fires have been reported at bigger than 10 acres; crews have responded to 48 incidents so far.

Last night around 500 lightning strikes sparked at least three fires in Klamath County in south central Oregon. Two fires were on private lands and one on land managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. No lightning strikes were reported in Lake County.

Interagency fire crews were dispatched to those three fires and they held them to 1/10th of an acre or less. Today, firefighters in Klamath County continue to search for smoke and respond to newly reported fires.

Help Wanted to Determine Fire Causes
A series of wildfires that have occurred recently in the Blackwell Hill and Gold Hill areas of Jackson County are clearly human caused and likely intentional.

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District is asking the public’s help in identifying the people responsible for starting these fires.
Please call the Southwest Oregon District office at (541) 664-3328 if you have information that will help identify the people or the vehicle that started three fires on Blackwell Hill Rd around 5:00 p.m. on July 25. Another fire occurred on Monday, July 29, around 5:00 p.m. along Hwy. 234 near the Gold Hill Sports Park.

WILDFIRE SMOKE FORECAST
Most areas north of a Roseburg - Crater Lake - Burns line, in Oregon, show relatively good air quality. However, a number of places in southwest Oregon are showing moderate to poor air quality due to the above wildfires. Most notably, air quality has reached unhealthy levels of smoke particulate from Grants Pass, Provolt and Cave Junction to Medford. Significant smoke particulate levels also exist from Crater Lake southward through Klamath Falls
TODAY: An upper-level trough is now parked over western OR and will remain so for the next couple of days before it weakens and retrogrades westward. Shower activity has move eastward into central and northeastern OR, as a drying trend has set in over southwestern OR. Low-level winds are currently westerly to NW in general over far southwestern OR. This will maintain elevated smoke levels for locations to the east and SE of the fires listed above. Areas west of the active fires will continue to see improved air quality.

FRIDAY: The upper trough will continue to be centered over the western OR, with generally dry conditions and light winds, oriented mostly NW, expected in the fire regions. Accompanying this scenario will be an increase in mixing levels over inland areas. This scenario will likely improve smoke dispersion in areas not located east and southeast of active fires. Also, some areas near the coast will likely see reduced low cloud cover in the afternoon and warmer surface conditions. Elevated smoke levels will likely persist downwind of existing fires.

Wildfire smoke dispersion depends on the stability of the atmosphere as well as wind direction and speed. A stable atmosphere holds smoke to the ground and an unstable atmosphere allows smoke to rise and dissipate. Smoke is typically mixed to higher altitudes during the afternoon, when daytime heating destabilizes the air mass. Conversely, smoke tends to settle near the ground and in drainages during the overnight and early morning hours.

FIRE STATISTICS
Note: Acreage of fires is continually tracked, but entering this information from field personnel into our central database from the field has been delayed. Those personnel are currently heavily engaged in firefighting. Reporting of cumulative statistics will resume when the information is available.

NEWS MEDIA
News media may call the Fire Information Duty Officer pager, 503-370-0403, 24/7 for fire information. The duty officer will call back promptly. Media may also call the Oregon Department of Forestry headquarters office, 503-945-7200, weekdays during business hours.

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

ODF maintains a blog that includes breaking news on wildfires statewide, along with current fire statistics. The Southwest Oregon District maintains a blog with wildfire info specific to the region. In addition, the district provides a Twitter feed on fires as they occur.

ABOUT THIS UPDATE
This update focuses primarily on firefighting activity on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands involving fires 10 acres or larger in size or of other significance. It also reports on ODF’s actions as a partner in fighting major fires that start on lands protected by other agencies.

ODF 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. Because fires may cross ownerships, and because of the need to share firefighting resources, agencies work closely together.

OTHER LINKS
Safety Tips

Fire weather

Wildfire smoke forecasts

Wildfire smoke and air quality

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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: information@odf.state.or.us.

Current wildfire info

Extremely dry conditions exist across most forestlands in Oregon currently. Large wildfires to date this season have been both lightning- and human-caused.

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. There are about 30.4 million total 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. Suppression of large fires can run into millions of dollars.

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