2015 another severe fire season

By mid-October 2016, ODF's net expenditures on large wildfires stood at $13.2 million. The lack of dry lightning played a significant role in the moderate firefighting costs this season. In 2015, large-fire costs totaled $29.6 million.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Fire Safety Crucial During Fall Hunting Season

CONTACT:
Kyle Reed
Douglas Forest Protective Association 541-672-6507 X 136
kreed@odf.state.or.us

Even though fire season ended earlier in the week in the Douglas Forest Protective Association jurisdiction, hunters and other recreationalists are reminded to be cautious with fire in wildland areas. During the fall months, several warm, windy days are all it takes to dry vegetation out enough for a fire to get out of control.

Campfires are one of the leading causes of wildfires this time of year. To prevent your campfire from becoming a wildfire, follow these tips:

- Always get landowner permission before having a campfire on private property. This includes private timber land.
- When selecting a site for a campfire, avoid areas near buildings, fallen trees, heavy vegetation, and overhanging branches.
- Remove all leaf litter and vegetation down to mineral soil for at least 5 feet on all sides of the fire.
- If a fire ring is not present, make one with rocks.
- Build your campfire downwind and at a safe distance from your tent and vehicle.
- Campfires should be kept small so they are easily manageable.
- Never leave your campfire unattended.
- At a minimum, keep a shovel and bucket of water nearby.

Before leaving the campfire, make sure it is 100 percent out. To do this, drown the embers and coals with water. Then stir everything together with a shovel, and then drown with water again. If any heat or smoke remains, the fire is not completely out. Continue to drown, stir, and drown until the heat and smoke are no longer present.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Contract crews play key role in 2013 fire season

If the summer wildfire season seemed especially busy, the numbers bear it out: The contract fire crews of the Pacific Northwest logged more than 4,700 crew days on 98 wildfires in 2013. The 20-person hand crews – most of them based in Oregon - fought fire in seven western states. Equipped with shovels and Pulaskis, the yellow-shirted firefighters dug and scraped mile upon mile of containment line to stop the spread of fast-moving fires through the forest.

The wildfire agencies of Oregon and Washington began the season with 168 20-person crews on their contract, known as the Interagency Firefighting Crew Agreement. But demand exceeded supply and they added 17 more at the end of July. Ninety contract crews were deployed just on the Douglas Complex fires in southern Oregon.

“Having these trained crews available, fully equipped and ready to be at a fire within short notice, is a very valuable resource for government,” said Cindy Beck, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) contract services unit coordinator. “Due to the large fire activity in Oregon this year the crews exceeded the normal 14-day assignments, and continuously received favorable performance reviews.”

ODF developed the original agreement in the late 1980s, when downsizing in Oregon’s timber industry resulted in fewer woods workers and federal agency personnel available to fight fire. Other state and federal wildfire agencies in Washington and Oregon subsequently joined the agreement.

Though the Department of Forestry administers the interagency crew agreement, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies have used the crews more extensively in the past. But in 2013, forestlands protected by ODF appeared in the crosshairs for lightning, and the state agency logged 3,214 contract crew days on 30 fires across its jurisdiction.

During a moderate fire season, Beck frequently gets calls from contractors, asking why their crews haven’t been dispatched yet. Lack of work was not the case this summer, and the industry stepped up to meet the need.

“In Oregon well over 40 percent of the fire resources that are available come from the professional private fire industry,” said Deborah Miley, executive director of the Lyons, Oregon-based National Wildfire Suppression Association. “These resources provide a highly qualified and trained workforce that has a shared goal to complete the mission and ensure that all of our firefighters go home.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fire season ends Sept. 24 in Southwest Oregon District

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 665-0662 or (541) 621-4156

Several days of rain across the southwest Oregon region has brought fire season to an end effective Tuesday, Sept. 24, on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties. The public regulated use fire danger level drops to “low” (green) after midnight tonight, and all public and industrial fire prevention regulations will be lifted.

It was a busy summer for firefighters across southwest Oregon. Crews responded to more than 330 fires, 126 of which were caused by lightning. More than 43,000 acres of forestland burned on the district, much of it in the Big Windy and Douglas complexes in northern Josephine County. People caused more than 200 fires this fire season, which started June 3, and human-caused fires burned nearly 800 acres. Lightning caused the summer’s biggest wildfires.

Southwest Oregon residents are urged to use caution when burning debris this fall. Many structural fire protection districts require a permit to burn piled debris or to use burn barrels, and both counties issue daily air quality advisories. Call your county’s open burning line before burning to find out whether open burning is allowed. In Jackson County, the number to call is (541) 776-7007. In Josephine County, call (541) 476-9663.

For more information about wildland fire prevention, contact your local Oregon Dept. of Forestry unit office:
• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd: (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr: (541) 474-3152

Fire danger regulations are also posted online at www.swofire.com.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It feels like fall, but fire danger still present

Even though fall is in the air, careless actions can spark a wildfire this time of year. Grasses, brush and other fine fuels parched by the summer’s heat can ignite from a variety of sources – an errant spark from a campfire or warming fire, a discarded cigarette, or a hot exhaust system contacting vegetation. And under fall conditions, these fire starts often don’t become apparent until hours or even days later.

For hunters, a warming fire built on a hillside in the early morning hours takes the chill off. But before you move on, is the fire really out? Even when there is no smoke the ashes can retain heat. On the next sunny day, a little wind can rekindle that “dead” fire and cause it to spread into a wildfire.

Before heading to the forest, be sure to check the rules to learn whether warming fires and campfires are allowed. The safest place for a campfire is in a campground with established fire pits. Before leaving a fire, be sure to douse it repeatedly with water, stirring the ashes each time to ensure it is completely extinguished.

When driving a full-sized vehicle or ATV in the forest, always carry fire equipment required by the jurisdictional land management agency. And before heading to your hunting location, check the current rules on vehicle use. In some areas, off-road use of motorized vehicles may be prohibited.

Likewise with smoking: Check the rules. Depending on the fire danger level, smoking may be restricted to inside a closed vehicle or building. In any case, never discard smoking materials in grass or other vegetation.

For additional fire safety tips and current fire restrictions, contact the Oregon Department of Forestry or the Keep Oregon Green Association.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Central Oregon fire update - Sept. 16, 2013

Several lightning strikes came through the northeastern portion of Central Oregon Sunday afternoon, igniting a handful of fires. Firefighters have responded to all new incidents. One fire is under investigation and estimated at 200 acres. Aerial detection flights will be flown Monday looking for any other fires that have not been located. Weather for the next couple of days is expected to be mostly cloudy and cooler, warming up again on Thursday. Friday will bring another possibility of precipitation to central Oregon.

Incident 813 (McDonald Ferry) located on the John Day River near Old Oregon Trail on Bureau of Land Management land was estimated at 200 acres late last night. Crews will continue to work the fire today.

The Whiskey Springs Fire on the Ochoco National Forest is currently 60 acres and continues to smolder in heavy dead and downed fuels from the old Hash Rock fire. It is located one mile east of Whiskey Springs on U.S. Forest Service Road 27 and was started by lightning on Sept. 5. There are numerous fire-killed snags in the area, making it unsafe for firefighters to engage directly. The fire is expected to continue to smoke and occasionally flare up until the area receives rain or snow. Crews have identified containment opportunities outside of the old fire area and are taking actions to ensure the fire remains contained within the identified area. ‘Fire Activity Ahead’ signs are posted along the 27 Road as travelers approach the fire. While the 27 Road remains open to the public, please use caution while traveling through the area.

The Sam Davis Fire on the Ochoco National Forest is located one mile east of Toggle Meadows south of Forest Service Road 12 and was started by lightning on Sept. 7. Given the time of year and favorable weather conditions, crews are using existing roads for containment opportunities and using drip torches and burn-out operations to secure established containment lines. This strategy is allowing the fire to consume accumulations of hazardous fuels and minimizes risk to firefighters. The fire is currently 272 acres in size. When completed, the final perimeter is expected to be approximately 350 acres. While no formal closure is in place, the public is encouraged to avoid the fire area.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weather change may help Big Windy Complex crews

Sept. 13, 2013
Contact: Brian Ballou, 541-665-0662

Smoke will drift from the Big Windy Complex as an area along the north/northeast flank that flared up Wednesday continues to burn out. On Thursday, helicopters hauled buckets of water into the Howard Creek drainage to cool down hotspots. Further helicopter activity in the same area is expected to take place today and through Saturday.

More than 120 firefighters are assigned to the Big Windy Complex today and will work on the 25,775-acre burned area throughout the weekend. Their primary tasks are to mop up around the perimeter of the fire, burn out unburned islands of vegetation inside the fireline, and monitor the interior of the burned area for flare-ups.

By late Saturday, a weather change is expected that will shift the wind pattern, bring a chance of showers, cooler temperatures and higher humidity. The prevailing air flow this past week has been from the north; starting late Saturday, the air flow will be from the west and the temperature in the Big Windy Complex area will drop into the 70s. There is a chance for thunderstorm activity on Sunday.

The Big Windy Complex is 90 percent contained.

Big Windy Complex updates and Southwest Oregon District fire prevention regulations are posted online at www.swofire.com and on InciWeb at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3570/.

Douglas Complex update - Sept. 13, 2013

CONTACT: Kyle Reed, Douglas Forest Protective Association
541-672-6507 X136 office, 541-580-2789 cell, kreed@odf.state.or.us

Douglas Complex Update

The warm, windy conditions over much of southern Oregon this week haven’t stopped firefighters from making good progress on the Douglas Complex. Some 150 fire personnel remain assigned to the incident, continuing post-fire suppression activities. The main objectives continue to be mopping up hot spots, working on rehabilitation projects, and patrolling the fire lines. Firefighters have also stopped several small flare-ups, well within the interior of the fire. These fies have occurred in areas that didn’t burn cleanly. While the flare-ups haven’t posed a threat to containment lines, fire officials are trying to minimize the loss of resources and habitat in these areas. With these interior pockets occasionally burning, in addition to other smoldering material in the interior of the fire area, some smoke from the Douglas Complex will be visible until significant rain showers return to the area.

The BLM has extended the road closure for the general public around the Douglas Complex until the end of the month. At that point, they will reassess the situation with the road closures. The road closures are in effect for the safety of firefighters and the public while work continues in the fire area. In addition to the potential for rolling rocks and falling trees in the burned area, many roads that fire trucks, water tenders, heavy equipment, and fire crews are working on are narrow, winding, and have blind corners. The public is asked to honor these road closures and stay out of the fire area. More information about the road closure can be found online at: www.blm.gov/or/districts/roseburg/newsroom/index.php or by calling the Roseburg Bureau of Land Management at 541-440-4930, or the Medford BLM at 541-471-6500.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Flare-up on Big Windy Complex sends smoke into valleys

More than 120 firefighters assigned to the Big Windy Complex continue the task of mopping up around the perimeter of the fire, burning out unburned islands of vegetation, and monitoring the interior of the burned area for flare-ups. A 20-acre flare-up Wednesday afternoon burned deep in the canyon where Howard Creek and Anna Creek converge. The flare-up pumped heavy smoke into northern Josephine County.

Contrary to earlier reports, yesterday's flare-up was not caused by burnout operations on the fire's west/southwest side.

Today, crews will monitor the flare-up and, if necessary, send helicopters with buckets in to cool down hotspots. Most of the flare-up occurred in an area where it is unsafe to send fire crews into. Using helicopters is the most effective way to contain flare-ups in the deep, remote canyons within the Big Windy Complex.

A series of infrared images were taken of the Big Windy Complex and the size of the burned area was revised to 25,775 acres. The complex is 90 percent contained.

Big Windy Complex updates and Southwest Oregon District fire prevention regulations are posted online at www.swofire.com and on InciWeb at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3570/.

Monday, September 9, 2013

ODF fire update - Sept. 9, 2013

FIRES ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS
The 85-acre Postage Stamp Butte Fire was reported Saturday burning in The Dalles Unit of the Central Oregon District in grass, brush and oak fuels. The fire was in mop-up Sunday. Cause is under investigation.

FIRES ON OTHER LANDS
No new fires were reported burning on other lands in Oregon.

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.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Postage Stamp Fire contained at 85 acres

The 85-acre Postage Stamp Fire reported Saturday burning in The Dalles Unit of the Central Oregon District was contained and in mop-up by Sunday. The fire is burning in grass, brush and oak fuels. Cause is under investigation.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fire safety essential on fall forest outings

The recent rainfall across parts of Oregon raised hopes, but it wasn’t enough to put the 2013 wildfire season in the rear-view mirror, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Tom Fields.

“This was not a season-ending event,” the fire prevention coordinator said. “Coming off of such a dry summer, we’ll need thorough saturation of the forest fuels to truly change conditions.”

A warming trend forecast to begin Sept. 7 and continue for up to a week could elevate fire danger once again. While the precipitation helped moderate fire conditions in the forest by moistening light fuels such as grasses, he said, just a day or two of sun and warmth can return the vegetation to a flammable condition.

For many Oregonians, the impulse to burn yard debris kicks in with the first rain. But burning restrictions remain in place across the state and aren’t likely to be lifted anytime soon. While conditions may be calm when holding a match to a pile of shrub trimmings, a gust of wind can transform that burn pile into a wildfire in mere minutes.

And in spite of widespread news coverage this summer of Oregon’s giant wildfires, some forest visitors apparently didn’t get the message. The department’s field districts are regularly finding campfires left burning by recreationists who headed for home without attempting to put them out.

Fire danger will moderate as the seasonal transition takes hold with shorter days and cooler temperatures. But careless activity can still trigger wildfires this time of year. And the firefighting force present during the peak of the summer is shrinking. Students who worked on fire crews to pay tuition have returned to college, and contracts for air tankers and helicopters are running out.

Fall is a great time to visit Oregon’s forests. As you enjoy the state’s unrivaled natural heritage, please exercise caution to prevent fires.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

ODF fire update - Sept. 5, 2013

This is an Oregon Dept. of Forestry fire update for Sept. 5, 2013.

FIRES ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS
No new fires 10 acres or larger were reported on ODF-protected lands during the past 24 hours.

The 11,354-acre Government Flats Complex burning 10 miles SW of The Dalles in the Central Oregon District is 98 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3662/

The 24,125-acre Big Windy Complex burning on ODF-protected lands 25 miles NW of Grants Pass is 87 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3570/

FIRES ON OTHER LANDS
The 1,350-acre Vinegar Fire burning on the Umatilla National Forest 27 miles NE of John Day is 53 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3645/

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Government Flats Fire update - Sept. 4, 2013

Information: Oregon Department of Forestry – 541-296-4626
Mt. Hood National Forest – 503-668-1791
Inciweb: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3662/

Today, containment of the Government Flats Fire Complex remains at 90 percent. Containment means a control line has been completed around the fire which can reasonably be expected to stop the fire’s spread. Areas on the northwest portion of the Blackburn Fire within the complex do not have containment lines firmly established yet. Significant mop-up work remains to be done in the heavier fuels on this area of the fire located on the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Isolated smokes may also continue to be visible in the interior of other areas of the Blackburn Fire away from the control lines.

A Type III Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team (IC Barnes) has been responsible for suppression and mop-up activities during the past week. This morning, management of the portion of the fire located on the Mt. Hood National Forest transferred to a US Forest Service Type III team. This team will be operating out of a new fire camp located at Toll Bridge Park in Parkdale.

The portions of the fire on private, Bureau of Land Management, and City of The Dalles ownerships will continue to be patrolled by The Dalles Unit of the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Total complex acreage remains at 11,434 acres, of which 11,221 is within the Blackburn Fire.

An area closure remains within the fire perimeter itself as well as on some Forest Service roads, trails and facilities within the Mt Hood National Forest in the vicinity of the fire. Listings of the road, trail and campground area closures may be found at these web sites: Mt Hood National Forest Area Closure or http://inciweb.org/incident/maps/3662/. Outside of the closure area fire equipment traffic may be heavy near the western end of the Blackburn Fire. Please use caution if driving in these areas.

Many of the personnel assigned to the Government Flats Complex are being demobilized so they rest and become available to other wildfires. Activity at the incident command post at Wahtonka High School in The Dalles will be winding down today.

ODF fire update - Sept. 4, 2013

FIRES ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS
No new fires 10 acres or larger were reported on ODF-protected lands during the past 24 hours.
The Douglas Forest Protective Association declared the 48,679-acre Douglas Complex fully contained at 7 p.m. on Sept. 3. The incident management team, led by DFPA, will remain in place to continue mop-up operations, work on rehabilitation projects and patrol the fire lines. Despite the incident being contained, smoke from the interior of the fire will be visible until fall rains set in. The public is reminded that the Bureau of Land Management road closures around the Douglas Complex fires will remain in effect through September 10. At that time, the BLM will reassess the road closures and make adjustments as needed. The road closures are in effect to provide safety to both firefighters and the general public while work continues in the area.

The 11,434-acre Government Flats Complex burning 10 miles SW of The Dalles in the Central Oregon District is 90 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3662/

The 24,253-acre Big Windy Complex burning on ODF-protected lands 25 miles NW of Grants Pass is 87 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3570/

FIRES ON OTHER LANDS
The 1,350-acre Vinegar Fire burning on the Umatilla National Forest 27 miles NE of John Day is 45 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3645/


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ODF fire update - Sept. 3, 2013

FIRES ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS
No new fires 10 acres or larger were reported on ODF-protected lands over the Labor Day weekend.

The 11,434-acre, lightning-caused Government Flats Complex burning 10 miles SW of The Dalles in the Central Oregon District is 90 percent contained, with full containment predicted Sept. 4. Crews are continuing mop-up on all sides of the Blackburn Fire (the remaining active fire in the complex). Resources on the complex include: 292 total personnel, two helicopters and 15 fire engines. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3662/

The 48,679-acre, lightning-caused Douglas Complex burning two miles north of Glendale in the Douglas Forest Protective Association jurisdiction is 95 percent contained. Mop-up, patrol and rehabilitation continue around the 127-mile perimeter. Resources on the complex include: 188 total personnel, two helicopters and nine fire engines.

The 24,253-acre, lightning-caused Big Windy Complex burning on ODF-protected lands 25 miles NW of Grants Pass is 87 percent contained. The incident management team currently managing the complex will turn it over to ODF today. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3570/

FIRES ON OTHER LANDS
The 1,350-acre, lightning-caused Vinegar Fire burning on the Umatilla National Forest 27 miles NE of John Day is 45 percent contained. More info: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3645/

The 534-acre, lightning-caused Middle Fork Fire burning 37 miles south of Jordan Valley on Bureau of Land Management lands is fully contained. Mop-up and rehabilitation are underway.

Comments and questions

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

The weather conditions setting up for this summer are ominous: continuing drought, meager winter snowpack, and above-average temperatures forecast through August.

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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About Me

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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.