Lightning is largely absent from Oregon this week. However, warm, dry weather will greet the hundreds of thousands of visitors arriving to see the eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21. Avoiding activities that can spark a wildfire is key to making the eclipse a safe and pleasant experience for all. One measure adopted to reduce the risk of wildfire is a temporary ban, now in effect, on all campfires in state parks





Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Oregon National Guard heads for southern Oregon wildfires

Above: These Oregon National Guard members have been
mobilized to fight wildfires near Crater Lake National Park.
 
Having finished their wildland firefighter refresher courses, today more than 100 members of the Oregon National Guard are traveling to help with fires in and around Crater Lake National Park.
 
The Guard members have experience in wildland fires from their mobilization in the busy fire season of 2015. They will expand the state's response capabilities by helping with mop up operations on the more than 10,000 acres in the High Cascades Complex. The Complex encompasses the Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake fires as well as several smaller fires.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Oregon National Guard readies for deployment to wildfires

 
Above: Members of the Oregon National Guard take refresher wildland fire training
before deploying to fires near Crater Lake National Park.
More than 100 members of the Oregon National Guard are taking wildland fire refresher courses in Salem today. The training at the Oregon Public Safety Academy is prior to the Guard members' traveling to help with fires in southern Oregon. The Guard members have experience in wildland fires from their mobilization in the busy fire season of 2015.

 
ODF firefighters have had a busy two weeks aggressively attacking and stopping wildfires all over the state, many of them caused by lightning across much of Oregon. There have also been large fires on lands not protected by ODF. Mopping up the tens of thousands of burned acres is labor intensive and is keeping private contract and inmate crews extremely busy. Guard members will aid the response by helping with mop up operations on the more than 10,000 acres which have burned in and around Crater Lake National Park.
 
Management of the Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake Fire has been combined with that of several smaller fires to form the High Cascades Complex. It is now being managed by a federal
Incident Management Team.
 

 

 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

ODF crews work with partners on multiple new fires

 

The following fires were reported as burning on ODF-protected lands.


Creek Pine Fire
The Creek Pine Fire burned about 78 acres in Harney County. This lightning caused fire is located about 40 miles south of John Day. The fire was reported just after 1 p.m. yesterday burning in juniper, grass and sagebrush.


Crews stopped the spread of the fire by late Wednesday evening.  Aerial resources were critical in the response due to the steep terrain and difficult access. Today firefighters will continue to strengthen fire lines and begin mopping up the interior of the fire.

Kirk Road Fire 
The Kirk Road Fire also started just after 1 p.m. yesterday. It burned 242 acres, including 76 on ODF-protected land. The fire is roughly 20 miles northeast of Pendleton, near Weston, Oregon. The cause of fire is under investigation.
 
Yesterday's joint response by local rural fire districts, the U.S.D.A Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Oregon Department of Forestry included a land and air effort with multiple fire engines, bulldozers, water tenders, crews, airplanes and a helicopters. The fire was lined late yesterday and is 75 percent controlled. Today crews will be mopping up interior hot spots and patrolling the fire area. 
 
The fire is burning in steep hills and was running and spotting yesterday afternoon. Embers can fly a half mile or more, and ignite a hillside across a valley from the burning hillside.
 
Redwood Highway Fire
The Redwood Highway Fire about 4 miles south of Cave Junction started yesterday. It burned 10 acres before crews dug a line around the fire to contain it. The fire is under investigation. Crews are doing mop-up today and working with the local fire department.  

Reuben Fire
The Reuben Fire is about 15 miles northwest of Grants Pass and has burned about 11 acres. The fire was caused by lightning. Crews are working to complete the line around the fire today.  

Stratton Creek Fire
The Stratton Creek Fire started yesterday morning 10 miles north of Grants Pass. It has burned about 24 acres. The fire is under investigation. Firefighters will continue fighting this fire today with helicopters dropping water to support the effort.
 
 

The following updates are for fires ODF has already been working on.


Flounce Fire
The Flounce Fire near Shady Cove is now about 690 acres and 10 percent contained. Up to a quarter-inch of rain fell on parts of the fire last night from a thunderstorm. 
 
While the rain is welcome, it creates safety concerns. The moisture combined with burning root systems, weakens trees causing a risk of falling and carrying burning material downhill across fire lines. Another concern is the potential for rock slides in the steep, rugged terrain. 
A Level One (Be Ready) evacuation notice remains in effect for residents on Evergreen Drive and Lewis Road near Prospect. Jackson County Emergency Management and local fire agencies will continue to coordinate with fire team personnel in evaluating the situation.
 
The fire danger level on ODF-protected land in Jackson and Josephine counties remains at extreme (red).
 
Indian Lake Fire
The Indian Lake Fire that started August 4 is 100 percent lined and 85 percent contained. It is located about 19 miles northwest of La Grande. This 222 acre fire burned 37 acres on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected land and the balance was U.S.D.A. Forest Service land. The cause is under investigation. 

The coordinated response by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Oregon Department of Forestry has made it possible to transfer command today from a Type 3 team to a Type 4 Team today. This is the last report on this fire unless significant activity occurs.
 
Whitewater Fire
The Whitewater fire started July 23 in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness and adjacent forestland. It has burned about 5,844 acres. Smoke from the Whitewater fire will affect the communities of Detroit, Marion Forks and Idanha. 
 
Some ODF crews are protecting private forestland on the fire's perimeter. Two Oregon National Guard Chinook helicopters will continue dropping water on the fire today, as part of Operation Smokey. Firing operations, which are used to remove fuels and reduce the spread of fire, will take place later today when conditions are favorable for managing fire intensity. 
 
All trail access points into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness and a portion of the Willamette National Forest west of the wilderness boundary remain closed. Individuals who have private lands within the closure, or leased lands, will be allowed to enter as long as it is safe to do so.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ODF teams continue engaging on Flounce Fire

Scattered heavy rainfall slowed the spread of the Flounce Fire in Jackson County late yesterday, allowing firefighting resources to gain direct attack along the fire's perimeter in several areas. The weather also created erratic winds and additional lightning that kept crews busy through the night. This morning the fire size was estimated at just over 600 acres of ODF-protected land.

ODF's Incident Management Team 1 arrived late Tuesday and assumed management responsibilities of the fire early Wednesday morning. The team, led by Incident Commander Bill Hunt, immediately began ordering additional crews and equipment to relieve local resources that have been responding to multiple fires over the past several weeks. The team is also supporting the local ODF district with other fires by moving aircraft and crews where needed.

A Level One (Be Ready) evacuation notice remains in effect for residents on Evergreen Drive and Lewis Road near Prospect.

The fire danger level on ODF-protected land in Jackson and Josephine counties remains at extreme (red).

ODF firefighters help on 167-acre fire near Heppner

PENDLETON, Ore. – ODF firefighters have helped catch the Tupper Corral Fire, located 20 miles southeast of Heppner. The 167-acre fire, which broke out yesterday afternoon in grass and timber on U.S. Forest Service land, is now 100 percent lined and 40 percent contained.

“Interagency cooperation was key in catching this fire,” said Doug Baxter, Heppner Ranger District Fire Management Officer. “The additional firefighting resources provided by our partners at Oregon Department of Forestry, successfully assisted the district with catching this fire.”

Firefighter success was aided by air resources, available crews, favorable winds and topography. Today firefighters are focusing on securing containment lines and mopping up hot spots near the control lines. Risks to firefighters working on the fire include excessive heat and snags, which continue to burn and fall inside the fire perimeter. Resources on the fire include seven engines, two crews, one water tender and one dozer. Approximately 60 personnel are assigned to the fire.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Very hot and dry conditions are expected to persist in northeast Oregon through early next week. Firefighters will be facing high temperatures in the 90s with relative humidity around 15-20 percent. Light winds are forecasted for the fire area tomorrow with a chance of thunderstorms Thursday through Saturday.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

ODF responds to Flounce Fire in Jackson County

Above: Smoke rises from the Flounce Fire north of Medford.
Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters from the Grants Pass and Medford offices worked through last night constructing fire line on the Flounce Fire, located about 22 miles north of Medford. The fire was first reported as two separate fires late Monday afternoon. The main fire burned nearly 50 acres by sunset. It and a smaller fire joined shortly after burning close to 200 acres by midnight. By early this morning, the lightning-sparked fire had burned more than 250 acres, according to district estimates.

ODF has dispatched its Incident Management Team 1 to the fire today. Command of the fire will transfer from the Southwest Oregon District
to that team at 5 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9.

A Level One (Be Ready) evacuation notice has been issued by Jackson County Emergency Management for residents on Evergreen Drive and Lewis Road near Prospect.

The fire is burning on timbered land that ranges from moderate to very steep. The rugged terrain was one of the primary challenges over the past 12 hours. Still, crews were able to lay hose to help control fire activity. Today, firefighters will continue to knock down the active portions of the fire, as well as continue building a control line around the perimeter. Additional ground and air resources have been ordered.  

Along with Oregon Department of Forestry crews from the Southwest Oregon District, a Rogue Valley Strike Team was activated. The strike team consists of structural protection units from Jackson County Fire District 4, Jackson County Fire District 5, Jackson County Fire District 3, Medford Fire-Rescue, Jacksonville Fire and Ashland Fire-Rescue. Ten-person and 20-person crews are also on scene, and several Oregon Department of Corrections inmate crews have arrived to assist with fire line construction. Roughly 250 personnel are currently working on the fire, with more resources on the way.

A red flag warning has been issued from noon to 10 p.m. today, with abundant lightning in the forecast. The fire danger level on ODF-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties is “extreme” (red) today. For a full list of the public restrictions currently in place, visit ODF Southwest Oregon District's Facebook page @ODFSouthwest or our website: www.swofire.com.

Friday, August 4, 2017

National Guard helicopters to help on Whitewater Fire

SALEM, Ore. - Two Oregon National Guard Chinook helicopters from Pendleton arrive in Salem today as the first resources mobilized to fight wildfires under the state of emergency declared by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday. The heavy-lift helicopters have been assigned to make water drops on the Whitewater Fire starting Saturday. That fire in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness has grown to more than 4,500 acres and could pose a threat to nearby private forestland protected by ODF.

ODF Aviation Manager Neal Laugle says helicopters are in especially high demand due to wildfires burning across the western United States and British Columbia. "That makes the availability of these National Guard helicopters very important right now for helping check the spread of Whitewater into private forestland."

Laugle says the Chinook is a highly effective firefighting tool, able to work in difficult terrain.

Gov. Brown's declaration came as high temperatures and dry fuels this week created a significant risk of wildfires starting and spreading.

“As Oregon faces a near record-breaking heatwave, the threat of wildfires increases,” Brown said in a statement accompanying the declaration.

Gov. Brown also urged all Oregonians to respect burn bans and other fire restrictions and do all they can to prevent wildfire starts.

Photo of a Chinook helicopter courtesy of the Oregon National Guard.

Highway signs warn of extreme wildfire danger


SALEM, Ore. – Starting today messaging boards on major Oregon highways will warn motorists of the extreme fire danger in much of the state. The signs are a collaborative effort between the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Transportation.  The message "Extreme Fire Danger: Use Caution" can be seen on I-5, I-84 and State Highway 97 through central Oregon and Highway 20 from Albany to Ontario. The messages will be shown during times of peak wildfire danger.  

                    Left: Motorists along Oregon's main freeways and Highways 97 and 20 are being warned about the extreme fire danger in much of the state by signs like this one near Madras. ODF photo by Jamie Paul.


The majority of wildfires in Oregon are caused by humans, according to Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields with the Oregon Department of Forestry in Salem.

“Taking extra care to avoid any activity which might spark a fire is especially important in summer. By August, vegetation is dry and can readily catch fire even from small sparks,” he said.

Drivers should not toss cigarette butts out windows and avoid parking on dry grass, which may ignite from heat from their vehicle. For a full list of restrictions when traveling, recreating or working in forestland, visit the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Fire Restrictions and Closures web page at  http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/pages/FireStats.aspx

“We appreciate the Department of Transportation helping us raise awareness among Oregonians and visitors to our state of the extreme fire danger in our forestlands,” said Fields.

                                                                 
 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Oregon air quality is at risk from wildfire starts











Left: An orange haze surrounds the rising sun as it comes up in a sky full of wildfire smoke over Salem. ODF photo by Nick Hennemann.
 

SALEM, Ore. – Smoke from wildfires will remain over much of the state today (Aug. 3) but some relief may be on the way for the weekend, at least west of the Cascades. That’s according to Smoke Management Program Meteorologist Nick Yonker with the Oregon Department of Forestry in Salem.
 
In the Portland area and the Willamette Valley, air quality is currently unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued an air quality advisory for Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford and surrounding areas as well as for central and eastern Oregon. Particulate matter from wildfire smoke is one of the concerns.
 
Yonker said the upper level high pressure ridge may gradually weaken today and tomorrow and allow for some onshore northwesterly flow late this afternoon and evening. This will gradually scour smoke from the air at the coast and inland.
 
 “Stronger onshore flow Friday should provide additional relief west of the Cascades by Friday afternoon and Saturday,” said Yonker. “However, the winds potentially will increase smoke levels in eastern Oregon by pushing smoke from the Whitewater Fire near Mt. Jefferson and other wildfires into that part of the state.”
 
 Yonker said new wildfires could alter that picture, which is why Oregonians are being urged to use extreme caution when working, traveling or recreating in forestland.
 
Current air quality information is available on the web:

- For areas in Oregon, other than Lane County:
http://www.oregon.gov/deq/aq/Pages/aqi.aspx

- For Lane County:
http://www.lrapa.org/216/Todays-Current-Air-Qualit...
 

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District increased restrictions today intended to reduce human-caused fires. Hot temperatures and lack of rain throughout central Oregon have dried fuels to record levels, making new fire starts difficult to control. Over the past week, fires across the region have challenged firefighters and strained resources.

"We are looking to reduce the potential of any new fires on the landscape," explains District Forester Mike Shaw, "we strongly encourage you to follow current fire restrictions and be mindful of all activities in the woods."

The increased restrictions limit activities such as mowing, chainsaw use and welding between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. when temperatures are hot and humidity is low.

So far this year, human-caused fires have accounted for 37 of the 56 fires in the Central Oregon District. Following restrictions can reduce ignitions and protect lives and limit damage to our natural resources, including air, water, and soil.

All ODF districts have announced the local fire danger to be high or extreme. The current fire danger level in each district and the restrictions in place for that district can be accessed at http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ODF plays role in combating the Devils Lake Fire in Lake County

LAKEVIEW, Ore. - A fire originating on U.S. Forest Service land on July 31 has since spread to 425 acres of ODF-protected land and is in extended attack. The Devils Lake Fire is burning in an area of timber, sagebrush, grass and juniper trees about six miles southeast of Bly in Lake County. A half dozen residences and an equal number of outbuildings are threatened by the fire, as are timberlands. The fire was reported at 1,600 total acres this morning.

Extreme temperatures and low humidity in the single digits are adding to the concerns of firefighters, who have been coping with running, torching and spot fires driven by winds.

In addition to ODF and U.S. Forest Service, others involved in suppression include the Bureau of Land Management, private contractors, and industrial operators. A Type 2 Incident Management Team is taking over management of the fire this afternoon.

ODF helps rangeland associations combat fires with excess federal equipment



Left: Jordan Valley Rangeland Protection Association volunteers in Malheur County with excess federal equipment obtained through ODF's help. These were used to help JVRPA fight the Bowden Fire earlier this year.


With land often owned in a checkerboard fashion in many parts of Oregon, a fire starting on lands not protected by ODF can soon endanger lands the agency does protect. That is one reason ODF supports rural fire entities. One way the agency has been doing that is through requesting excess equipment from the federal government and channeling it to local fire districts to refurbish and use. Last year, ODF funneled $9 million worth of equipment to local firefighting organizations statewide.

Mike McKeen is ODF coordinator for the Federal Excess Property Program and Federal Firefighter Program (FFP). McKeen says the FEPP has been around since the 1970s and handles all kinds of excess federal equipment. ODF obtains the equipment through the U.S. Forest Service, which retains ownership but allows the item to be permanently loaned to local jurisdictions. The FFP is newer, having begun in 2010. It distributes only military excess property, which becomes permanent property of the fire district after a year of being in service.

While the program has benefited rural fire districts across the state, nowhere has the equipment been more welcome than in the wide expanses of eastern Oregon's rangelands.

A case in point is the Jordan Valley Rangeland Fire Protection Association. One of 22 organizations set up since 1964 to fight fires on Oregon's rangelands, Jordan Valley's volunteers are responsible for protecting 2.5 million acres in Malheur County - an area larger than most ODF fire districts.

"They have a huge amount of ground to cover," said McKeen.

Through ODF, Jordan Valley has received equipment from both the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and Fire Fighter Program (FFP). With ODF's help, Jordan Valley has obtained 19 pieces of excess federal equipment ranging from Type 6 engines to 5,000-gallon water tank trailers, truck tractors and a D7G bulldozer.

The value of all this equipment? Just the equipment from the federal Fire Fighter Program had an original value of $1,172,000, according to McKeen. 

 


 




 
 
 
 
 
 

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

Cool, wet weather in the winter of 2016-17 ended Oregon's long drought and left a thick snowpack at higher elevations which will take some time to melt. However, even in non-drought years Oregon's warm, dry summers create conditions that allow for fire to start and spread. In an average summer firefighters still see almost a thousand fires on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.



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. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.




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About Me

My photo
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.