Current situation

Sunny and dry conditions again prevail across Oregon this week. Mild temperatures will give way to warmer conditions, melting snow and drying fuels faster. This will raise fire risk across the state. There have already been twice as many wildfires on ODF-protected land compared to the same time last year, with more than twice as many acres burned.

May is Wildfire Awareness Month, a time when homeowners are urged to take steps to reduce the risk of wildfire around their house and other structures. Among these are clearing debris from roofs and gutters, cutting back brush from around structures, and removing lower branches from trees.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Finding the Fire at Night, 8/5

Finding the Fire at Night
John Flannigan, Night Operations Chief
Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team 1

Finding the fire at night can be one of the most challenging parts of fire, and in his 34 years of experience Night Operations Chief, John Flannigan has gotten to be an expert at it. Part detective, part firefighter Flannigan says getting there “can be an adventure at night.” On the Haystack Complex with four new fires in three days it made his work even more challenging.

Using nighttime to fight wildfires has some special advantages, less heat from the sun and sometimes humidity recovery (dew) that can slow the fire down. In his years working often at night he has seen “lots of time when the fire lays down and we can get tight to it.” Getting tight to the fires edge and removing one of the three legs of the fire triangle, heat by using water, or fuel by digging a fire line will stop the fire from growing.

But you have to get there, and just looking at the orange glow in night sky doesn’t often show you the way.

If the fire was found in the daytime there may be directions, but what looks obvious then can look completely different at night with dust and darkness. Plastic flagging, bright in the daytime can look like crumbs at night and to get to the Beard Canyon Fire he needed to slow down at every intersection and look for dozer tracks in the dust that would lead his way in. Technology can help with GPS integrated into tablet computers but that doesn’t show if the road is passable or has a gate. Local knowledge really helps.

John Flannigan takes the big view of firefighting at night “finding the new fires and getting going on them is challenging, but just what we do.”

--Dave Wells, IMT 1 PIO

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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:

Current wildfire info

Cool, wet weather in the winter of 2016-17 ended Oregon's long drought and left a thick mountain snowpack. It didn't take long for that to melt and vegetation to dry out due to a series of heatwaves and a prolonged stretch of dry weather over the summer. As forest fuels dried, fires started and spread, many from lands adjacent to those protected by ODF, such as the Chetco Bar Fire in Curry County. That one fire accounted for 46% of the 47,537 acres of land protected by ODF which burned in 2017. Of fires originating on ODF-protected land, 95% were put out at less than 10 acres.

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.