Current situation

Winter and spring see lots of controlled burns in Oregon to eliminate piles of woody debris left over after logging or thinning. Embers buried in the ashes of these pile burns can sometimes reignite even days after a fire appears to be out, especially if winds blow away ashy debris. The same winds can then fan smoldering embers back to life. That's why it's a good idea to keep checking old pile burns to ensure no hot spots have rekindled.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Oregon and the nation focus on helping fight the Chetco Bar Fire

About 125 Oregon National Guard members, along with support personnel, are scheduled to be activated today to support the Chetco Bar Fire. Gov. Kate Brown announced the mobilization yesterday.

Above: Steep terrain has made the Chetco Bar Fire
in southwest Oregon difficult for firefighters.
Moderate weather yesterday and today
 has helped slow the fire's spread after it grew
 to just under 100,000 acres earlier in the week.
Guard members are expected to complete training and be supporting first responders at the Chetco Bar fire within a week. The activation brings to about 400 the number of Oregon National Guard members supporting firefighting efforts in the state. 

The Chetco Bar fire has so far destroyed five homes, 20 outbuildings, and 13 vehicles. It has damaged one home and eight outbuildings.

Located in Curry County, the Chetco Bar Fire has become the highest priority fire in the United States. More than 1,100 personnel from multiple agencies are now assigned to the fire, which is reported at 99,944 acres in size. 

There was reduced potential for fire spread yesterday and this morning thanks to higher relative humidity and decreased winds. Forecasts call for an increase in warm, dry winds from the northeast tonight through Saturday (these are locally known as "Chetco Wind").

Last weekend, strong winds drove the fire south onto land protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA). Several thousand acres of protected timber have been affected.
Significant progress has been made building direct fire line. This is continuing to progress north on the western flank and beginning to head east on the southern flank. There is also some indirect fireline to stop the spread of the fire. This work is focused primarily on private and Bureau of Land Management ground on the southwest corner of the fire where mandatory evacuations are in place.
Evacuation notices have affected 2,367 people, with 56 people in temporary shelters. The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at Riley Creek Elementary School in Gold Beach and there is a temporary shelter at the Tolowa Tribe Reservation at Smith River across the border in Northern California. While Highway 101 remains open, motorists are requested to avoid traveling the section north of the Brookings area if possible. The fire has reached as close as six miles from Brookings.
A Unified Command has been set up that includes Coos Forest Protective Association. A Type One Incident Management Team takes over command of the fire today. Deputy State Forester Nancy Hirsch is being joined at the incident command post by Fire Protection Division Chief Doug Grafe today. Numerous other personnel from ODF and Coos Forest Protective Association are also engaged on the fire.

Monday ODF sent two strike teams of engines that had come from Washington State to provide extra help during the eclipse. Two Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters have also been redeployed from the Whitewater Fire in the Cascades to the Chetco Bar Fire, bringing to six the number of helicopters working on the fire. However, heavy smoke has been limiting aerial attack on the fire.
As of this morning there were 56 wildland fire engines, 51 structural fire engines, 18 water tenders, 16 dozers and 25 hand crews engaged on the fire.
Lightning started the fire back on July 12 in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

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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:

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.