Current situation

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Oregon Dept. of Forestry fire update - Aug. 9, 2013

No new fires 10 acres or larger have been reported on ODF-protected forestlands over the past 24 hours.

PSA features Governor Kitzhaber enlisting public’s help preventing wildfires. Gov. John Kitzhaber has released a public service announcement reminding Oregonians and visitors to practice basic fire safety while visiting Oregon’s scenic areas. Oregon is experiencing the most severe wildfire danger in years, with more than 65,000 acres currently burning. The PSA reinforces the importance of fire prevention.

“We all have a part to play this wildfire season to prevent human-caused fires,” said Gov. Kitzhaber. “All across the state, quick-acting crews are putting out small, lightning-caused fires before they can become big fires. With lightning frequently in the forecast, we need to make sure we’re not diverting those crews with human-caused fires that are easily preventable by using safe practices when visiting scenic areas or using power tools.”

The fire season is likely to continue through August and September, and thousands of emergency and other personnel are working together to respond quickly to fires and protect the public and Oregon’s natural resources.

The PSA was shot on Saturday, Aug. 3, while the governor was in Glendale for a briefing on the Douglas Complex.

Weather, smoke and fire situation
The upper low that has provided lightning and some moisture over the state since Tuesday night will continue to provide showers and thundershowers today and through the weekend. Moisture from these events should be the most prevalent and widespread over the state today and Saturday. The largest amounts will be over the mountainous areas of the Cascades and eastern Oregon, with lightest amounts in the western valleys and coast. Nevertheless, fire activity should be suppressed over the weekend from the moisture and increased humidity levels. Red Flag Warnings remain in place for several areas of the state, including southwest, south-central, and north-central, with ending dates that vary from tomorrow in the southwest, extending into Sunday in the north-central/northeast area.

As the upper low moving to the north provides improved mixing, moisture and a more southerly wind direction, air quality should continue to improve over the communities in SW Oregon as well as in other parts of the state that are starting to experience fires from new lightning strikes.

Aggressive initial attack on new fire-starts continues, and fire starts on ODF-protected forestlands continue to be suppressed at less than 10 acres.

Across the state, new fire starts and existing fires are requiring the combined efforts of all wildland firefighters in the region. These includes federal, state, tribal, contractors and cooperators who provide fire suppression assets like aircraft, equipment, and firefighters. Officials are continually assessing all reported and located fires, and prioritizing resources. These assets continue to be prepositioned and shifted around the region as fire priorities are set and adjusted throughout the day in anticipation of increased fire starts and rapid growth potential. Firefighter and public safety are the highest priorities. Communities, infrastructure, such as transmission lines, and economic concerns, such as industrial timberlands, are also high priorities.

Grouse Mountain Fire/GC [Grant County] Complex
The Grouse Mountain Fire started on the afternoon of August 7th, and is burning one mile north of John Day, east of Highway 395, on forestlands protected by ODF. Grouse Mountain Fire is part of the GC Complex, which also includes the Starvation Fire, near Sheep Mountain, 16 miles southeast of Prairie City, burning on the Malheur National Forest.

The Grouse Mountain Fire made a significant push early Thursday evening, August 8th, when wind direction abruptly changed. Aided by strong north winds, fire runs approached the limits of John Day along the northern boundary of the city. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued pre-evacuation notices for residences in three areas on the north side of John Day. At this time, there is no report of any damage to structures.

Fire crews are engaging in aggressive initial attack, and worked through the night with dozers, engines, and hand crews to begin establishing containment fire lines. Steep terrain has made dozer and engine access difficult.

The complex is estimated to be approximately 11,500 acres today, burning primarily in rugged terrain with juniper, grass, and brushy fuels. Active fire spotting, torching, and fire runs have been observed and continue today, with large piles of decked juniper in the area adding to the intensity of the fire.

Highway 395 remains open, but fire-related traffic in the area may be heavy.

ODF provided initial attack yesterday and today, directing suppression actions on the wildfire, as well as structural firefighting resources from John Day, Prairie City, Mt. Vernon, Dayville, Long Creek, and Monument, and a coordinated response by local police agencies.

The governor invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act last night, allowing more resources to respond. A task force from Baker and Union counties arrived in John Day at about 2:30 a.m. Friday, and an overhead team was en route to help manage the structure protection response. Additional crews and equipment from Hood River and Wasco counties is expected to arrive today, as is another structural fire task force from Yamhill County.

Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 4 was briefed on the situation yesterday afternoon and took over the complex at 6 p.m. on August 8th. ODF will continue working on the Grouse Mountain Fire as a branch of the larger GC Complex. During the briefing for the incoming incident management team, the following items were noted: 1) drift smoke from fire and air attack has been highly visible from John Day; 2) there is still potential for evacuation of some scattered dwellings; 3) there are concerns about cattle (1000+) on federal allotments north and east of the fire; and, 4) flame heights are running 4-8 feet on this fire, but 30-50 feet when pushed by the wind. Resources at risk include: structures, timber, grass, fences, cattle, and big game habitat.

There will be a community meeting about the fire at the Malheur National Forest Supervisor's Office at 5 p.m. today, August 9.

Current weather forecasts predict continued chances for lightning and erratic winds through the weekend. Safety hazards for fire fighters include rattlesnakes and falling snags.

The cause of the Grouse Mountain Fire remains under investigation.

For more information, call the Incident Information Office for the GC Complex at 231-534-5569; e-mail, or visit the complex’s Inciweb site.

Douglas Complex
The 44,045-acre, lightning-caused Douglas Complex fires are burning approximately seven miles north of Glendale in Douglas and Josephine counties on a mix of BLM and private forestlands protected by the Douglas Forest Protective Association, and are now 32 percent contained. ODF Incident Management Team #2 (IC: Dennis Sifford) assumed command of this complex on Saturday, July 27. The Douglas Complex remains the highest fire priority nationally for resources, and there are currently 3,138 personnel assigned. The complex primarily consists of the Rabbit Mountain (22,540 acres), Dad’s Creek (21,242 acres), and Farmer’s (245 acres) fires. Overall the primary focus is to strengthen control lines on the Rabbit Mountain and Dad’s Creek fires.

Weather: A Red Flag Warning continues through tonight for the fire and surrounding areas due to the chance of lightning. Weather over the fire will include light clouds coming in and potential lightning forming about 1 p.m. today. These lightning storms are predicted to bring rain.

The following evacuation levels and closures are in effect:

• Cow Creek Road from Riddle into the fire area and from Glendale into the fire is closed to the public.
• Adjusted the evacuation levels for the fire area: Evacuations are now at a Level 2 for McCullough Creek Road, Reuben Road, and Mt. Reuben Road in Douglas County. The Level 3 evacuation has been modified to a Level 2 restriction for Lower Grave Creek, Grave Creek, and Lower Wolf Creek in Josephine County. The area from the community of Wolf Creek to Watertank Gulch has been modified to a Level 1 status.
• 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.

For more information, visit the complex’s Inciweb site. In addition, news releases from the fire team and other information that may occur throughout the day is also posted on the Douglas Forest Protective Association’s Facebook page and on the ODF Wildfire Blog.

Big Windy Complex
The 14,364-acre, lightning-caused Big Windy Complex fires are burning approximately 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass, 8 miles northwest of Galice, on BLM forestlands protected by ODF’s Southwest Oregon District, and is 10 percent contained. Under a formal delegation of authority from ODF, the Pacific Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team #2 (IC: Chris Schulte) assumed command of this complex on Monday, July 29. On August 6, the three fires included in the complex (Big Windy, Calvert Peak, and Jenny – formerly Windy 16) grew together into one fire. There are currently 1,233 personnel assigned to the complex. Closures remain in place for the area including Bear Camp Road, Burnt Ridge Road (Forest Road 2308) from junctions with Forest Road 2300 to 3300, the Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek to Rogue River Ranch, and the BLM portion of the Wild Section of the Rogue River from Grave Creek to Mule Creek. Evacuations include a Level 2 evacuation notice in place starting at the Marial Lodge and following the Rogue River east to Grave Creek, then north and west on the Marial Byway back to the Marial Lodge. On August 7, an additional Level 1 notice was issued for the area of Galice Access Road, including the road north to the Graves Creek Bridge.

• Moisture over the fire last night (0.1 – 0.2 inches) has slowed fire activity and prohibited firefighters from accomplishing any additional burnout. As a result, crews worked to hold and improve lines overnight.
• A community meeting held in Galice yesterday afternoon was well attended. Attendees learned more about the status of the fire and suppression actions planned for the Big Windy Complex.
• A red flag warning for thunderstorms with dry lightning will continue through the evening, with possible 40 percent chance of rain. As we move into the evening, the thunderstorms have potential to drop brief, yet heavy, rainfall.
• Severe storms in the area and Northern California have prompted firefighters to be on alert for gusty, erratic winds and locally heavy rain. Newly constructed roads impacted by rain may create challenges for quick egress.
• Weather and fire behavior specialists from the Big Windy Complex are coordinating closely with their counterparts from the Rabbit Mt and Dad’s Creek Fires to make firefighting operations as safe and efficient as possible.
• The eastern edge of the fire has moved into the lower east slope of Howard Creek. Firefighters are monitoring the fire's further progress to the east. The smoke inversion lifted yesterday afternoon, allowing the heavy helicopters to assist with water drops around the Howard Creek area.
• A spike camp is being setup in the Eden Valley area to reduce travel time for firefighting resources north of the Rogue River. The camp location will help improve overall progress north of the river by reducing driving times and better rest between work shifts.

NOTE: A new information phone number is available for the Big Windy Complex at 541-476-1252. For more information on this complex, visit the complex’s Inciweb site and social media sites:

The lightning-caused Coyote Gap Fire started on August 7th and is burning 40 miles from Fields, on Bureau of Land Management land and staffed by 8 people and 2 engines. The fire is 807 acres and 50 percent contained, burning in short grass and brush in difficult terrain and the only access is by hiking or air. Firefighters plan to use dozer lines and aircraft to contain this fire.

The lightning-caused Grassy Mountain Complex started on August 7th and is burning 22 miles southwest of Jordan Valley on Bureau of Land Management lands, with 138 people, 2 helicopters, and 17 fire engines assigned. The complex totals 17,400 acres, and includes the Lone Tree Fire (1700 acres) and the Grassy Mountain Fire (15,000 acres), and 50 percent contained. The fire is burning in grass and brush in challenging terrain, with difficult access. Yesterday the fire was smoldering with isolated torching and short runs. Firefighters will continue securing line around the fire perimeter.

The lightning-caused Mann Fire started on August 7th and burned 355 acres of grass and brush 55 miles from Fields on Bureau of Land Management lands, with 10 people and 3 engines assigned. The fire is now contained and firefighters will continue with mop up.

The lightning-caused Sharon Creek Fire started on August 7th and is burning 18 miles southeast of Rome on Bureau of Land Management lands. The fire 5,000 acres and 0 percent contained. The fire is burning in grass and brush in challenging terrain, with difficult access and logistical trouble in steep, rocky terrain. Firefighters continue to construct containment line and begin mop up where possible.

The lightning-caused Cascade Division Complex is burning approximately 14 miles northwest of Sisters. Most of the small fires in the complex have been completely suppressed and the only large fire in this complex of approximately 1150 acres is the Green Ridge Fire , which is 50 percent contained, with full containment expected on Sunday, August 11.. The NorCal Interagency Incident Management Team 1 (IC: Mike Minton) assumed command of this complex on August 3, and 581 personnel are assigned. The fire is actively burning in very steep terrain above the Metolius Basin. Overnight, crews continued burn-out operations along the southwest and western flanks, and started mop up on the far eastern flanks. Those efforts will continue today and residents in the Camp Sherman area will see the burn-out operations. There will be a Community Meeting tonight, August 9th, at 6:30 pm at the Camp Sherman Community Building. There are no evacuations in place, but, for public and firefighter safety, there is an emergency closure in the area, including: Forest Road 14 from the 900 – 1400 junctions, the East Metolius Trail, Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, and three campgrounds on the Metolius River – Lower Bridge, Allen Springs, and Pioneer Ford. While these three campgrounds are closed, six popular campgrounds on the Metolius River still remain open. For the public who wish to visit the Camp Sherman area, businesses are open and look forward to serving your recreational needs.

As of August 6, the IMT is no longer responsible for initial attack in the area; that responsibility has been returned to the forest, and the team is solely managing the Green Ridge incident. ODF continues to carefully monitor progress on this fire since, particularly on the eastern side where spots are less than ¼ mile from ODF-protected private forestlands. For more information on this fire, visit the fire’s Inciweb site or the team’s Facebook page.

The lightning-caused Whiskey Complex fire burning six miles east of Tiller on the Tiller Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest is now 10,656 acres and 40 percent contained, with an estimated full containment date of August 20th. The Complex currently consists of three fires: the Whisky Fire (which has joined with the original Big Brother Fire and is now 8,946 acres), the Buckeye Fire (1,683 acres and fully contained, with hot spots remaining and in mop-up within the fire perimeter) and the Smith Ridge Fire (27 acres and 100 percent contained, with hot spots remaining and in mop-up within the fire perimeter). The incident is being managed by a Unified Command: Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 1 (IC: Williams) and the Douglas Forest Protective Association (IC: Ken Lane), and there are 911 personnel assigned to this incident. Federal and private forestlands remain at risk from fires in this complex.

• Despite forecasts for lightning, the fires within the Whiskey Complex remained socked under an inversion until mid afternoon on Thursday, which allowed for good progress in mop up and burnout of isolated areas of line. Lightning expected in the fire area moved to the east where 16 strikes were documented and three new initial attacks were initiated.
• Fire crews were able to line the spot fire that raced out of Pipestone Creek drainage earlier in the week. Four crews were coyote camping in the backcountry Thursday evening to finalize that work on Friday.
• On the Buckeye fire, palm infrared units are being used for heat detection within the fire perimeter, and gridding has also begun. Gridding is a systematic process for finding and locating hot spots within a specific area. Interior islands are still torching and smoking, but the fire line continues to hold.
• Fire managers were tasked with resolving several road-related concerns Thursday. A lowboy trailer had two wheels slip off the side of the road, leading to a blockage during the time it took to extract it. A sinkhole also began to appear in the 28 road, and a steel plate was inserted by road engineers to mitigate the hazard.
• What many consider to be the world’s tallest sugar pine tree still stands proudly along Jackson Creek. Crews have been dropping snags and removing dead and down woody debris from near the tree to help ensure its survival if fire approaches.
• A Red Flag warning continues today for possible abundant lightning in the area with possible 35 mph downdraft winds and/or heavy rainfall associated with thunder cells. An inversion is expected to remain until 3:00 p.m., keeping smoke trapped in the area and limiting aircraft access.
• Crews are falling three snags in the fire camp at Milo today in order to ensure the safety of firefighters and future camp users.

For more information on this complex, visit the complex’s Inciweb site.

For information on other ongoing wildfires in other jurisdictions within Oregon, go to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center website, and to the national Incident Information System website at

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, as well as a Twitter feed.

Fire statistics will not be included until further notice.

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 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.

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.


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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 about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. 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.