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.


































Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thomas Fire has become California's largest since the 1930s

Oregon firefighters deployed by ODF and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations returned safely before Christmas from the Thomas Fire in Southern California. Since their return, the wildfire has officially become the largest in California in modern times. According to Cal Fire statistics, the Thomas Fire's size is 281,620 acres. That's more than 8,000 acres larger than the 273,246-acre Cedar Fire of 2003 - the previous record holder since reliably accurate mapping began in the 1930s.

According to Cal Fire, the Thomas Fire is now 88% contained and is not expected to spread further. The number of personnel assigned to the fire has reportedly fallen below 900.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

ODF and association firefighters will return to Oregon from California before Christmas

Over 60 firefighting personnel from Oregon Department of Forestry districts and Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations will be returning to Oregon this holiday weekend from Southern California, where they have been helping battle the Thomas Fire. That fire is now reported as 60% contained. The firefighters will be returning in the same 25 fire engines in which they traveled to California.

Above: Firefighters from ODF's Eastern Oregon Area
pause for a group photo after fighting
the Thomas Fire in Southern California.
 
The ODF and association firefighters have been engaged on the fire northwest of Los Angeles for almost two weeks. During that time, the Thomas Fire has grown to more than 272,000 acres, almost equal to the 2003 Cedar Fire in San Diego, which has stood as the largest wildfire in California in modern times.

Oregon sent the largest contingent of fire engines and personnel from out of state to help California with the massive blaze, which began on Dec. 4. Earlier this week some 300 other Oregon firefighters deployed to California through the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal were demobilized.

Unusually prolonged Santa Ana winds spread the fire through rugged terrain in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The lack of significant rainfall in the area since February provided ample dead and dry fuel that carried the fire deep into the Los Padres National Forest as well as nearby communities.

The ODF and association firefighters dug control lines and put out spot fires during their assignment. Their mobilization was part of a mutual-aid agreement that this summer saw California firefighters travel north to help during an especially intense outbreak of wildfires in Oregon. 

At the peak of the Thomas Fire, the ODF and association firefighters were part of a virtual army of more than 8,400 firefighters assigned to the fire. Wind-driven flames forced the evacuation of thousands of area residents and destroyed more than a thousand structures, according to Cal Fire’s official information website.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Southern California's Thomas Fire now stands as the second largest in California since the 1930s

Above: Smoke from the Thomas Fire rises
above ODF fire engines and crews.
Containment on the Thomas Fire in Southern California has reached 60%. This has allowed fire officials to release about a fourth of the personnel assigned to the fire. Among those returning home from the fire are 300 firefighters and support personnel deployed earlier this month through the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal, which announced yesterday that the 15 task forces it deployed are returning to Oregon.
 
As of this morning, some 6,500 personnel were still assigned to the fire, including a contingent of 65 firefighters, heavy-equipment bosses and a helicopter crew member from several ODF districts and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations. They are expected to be demobilized within the next few days. 
 
One hundred of the 161 out-of-state engines that responded to the Thomas Fire under mutual-aid agreements have come from Oregon. Among the fire engines from Oregon are 25 deployed through ODF. Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Washington State also sent engines. 
 
The Thomas Fire is now reported as 272,000 acres in size. That ranks it second among California wildfires since the 1930s, when reliably accurate sizes began to be recorded for all wildfires. The Thomas Fire is only slightly smaller than the largest wildfire in modern California history - the 2003 Cedar Fire. That fire was also driven by strong Santa Ana winds. It spread across some 273,000 acres, killing 14 people and leaving 104 firefighters injured. By contrast, there has been one firefighter fatality and no reported firefighter injuries at the Thomas Fire.
 
For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire's incident information page at www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents
 
 
Left: A sun turned red by smoke from the Thomas Fire in Southern California sets over two ODF engines. They are part of a contingent of 25 engines the agency deployed as part of a mutual-aid agreement with California. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Southern California's Thomas Fire grows to more than 270,000 acres


The more than 8,400 firefighters and support personnel assigned to the Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles have achieved 45% containment of the blaze, according to information posted today by Cal Fire. Some 366 Oregon firefighters are engaged on the Thomas Fire, including a contingent of 66
Above: Oregon firefighters deployed by ODF
to the Thomas Fire put out a spot fire
threatening an avocado orchard.
firefighters from several ODF districts and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations.

Despite the containment gains, the Thomas Fire spread over the weekend, growing to 270,500 acres in size. That makes it the third largest in California since at least the 1930s.

ODF's agency representative this weekend spent time in the Santa Barbara area, where the fire made a three-mile advance Saturday. "Due to excellent firefighting, including Oregon task forces, the amount of structures damaged or destroyed was much less than expected," he reported. "The suppression action was intense and impressive, with innumerable small, medium and large spot fires being suppressed in and around heavily populated areas."

The agency representative also commented that, "ODF and Forest Protection Association personnel engaged on the fire continue to perform to a very high degree of skill and professionalism."

Cal Fire reported that to date the Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 750 single-family residence and damaged almost 200 others. Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate in advance of the fire, which is burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Some 18,000 structures are still considered at risk from the fire. Much of the fire is burning in the Los Padres National Forest. The forest covers 1.76 million acres of rugged terrain from sea level to more than 8,000 feet in elevation. Popular with hikers, it is also home to a number of rare or threatened species, including the California condor.
Above: Some 25 fire engines are deployed
to the Thomas Fire from several ODF districts
and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations.
A note on Santa Ana winds
 
Prolonged Santa Ana winds have fanned the Thomas Fire since it began Dec.4, contributing to its rapid growth and extreme fire behavior. These winds originate as a high-pressure system over the Great Basin and upper Mojave Desert. The cool, dry air sweeps across the deserts of eastern California before funneling through mountain passes and canyons to the Pacific Ocean. Three things happen when Santa Ana winds are blowing: it gets warmer, wind speed increases and humidity plummets, all of which increase fire risk.

 
For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire's incident information page at http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Oregon firefighters remain engaged on the fourth largest wildfire in California history

Above: Flames from Southern California's
 Thomas Fire shoot up over shrubs left dry
by months without rain.
Photo from Inciweb by Kari Greer.
Cal Fire reported today that there has been one firefighter fatality on the Thomas Fire involving one of that agency's California staffers. ODF extends its condolences to that firefighter's family and to all our colleagues at Cal Fire. As more details are released by Cal Fire we will share that information.

ODF's agency representative at the Thomas Fire reports that all 62 firefighting personnel deployed there from ODF districts and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations are safe. The Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal is reporting that the 300 Oregon firefighters deployed through that office and other fire entities are also safe.
 
Our firefighters are among more than 8,000 personnel engaged on the Thomas Fire, which is burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles. It has grown to more than 242,000 acres, making it the fourth largest wildfire in modern California history. As in any wildfire, firefighter safety is a top priority for our task force leaders and crews.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

A red-flag warning is in effect until 10 a.m. Friday. No rain is forecast. In Santa Barbara County, the fire continues to threaten Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecito and surroundings areas. Some 18,000 structures are reported at risk and big sections of the Los Padres National Forest have burned. High fuel loading, critically low fuel moistures, above-average temperatures and single-digit relative humidities are reported to be spurring growth on the fire's west, east and north sides. Despite that, firefighters have made progress on the fire. As of this morning the fire was reported as 30% contained.

While wildfires occur every year in California, 14 of the 20 largest fires by acres burned have all occurred since 2001, according to Cal Fire statistics. Eight of those mega-fires happened just in the past decade.
 For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire's incident information page at http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents.




 




 




 





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First two Marion County communities earn Firewise USA status

Signs proclaiming Detroit and Idanha as new Firewise USA communities were unveiled Friday, Dec. 8 in both locations. Detroit and Idanha are the first two communities in Marion County whose efforts to reduce wildfire risk have earned them this national designation.

Detroit and Idanha join about 1,400 other communities nationwide who have taken the five necessary steps to earn Firewise USA status since the program started in 2002. About 124 Oregon communities have earned the designation. Most are in southern and central Oregon, with about half in Jackson and Deschutes counties.

The steps all communities seeking Firewise status in Oregon must take are:
  • Obtain a written wildfire risk assessment from the Oregon Department of Forestry or a local fire department.
  • Form a board or committee, and create an action plan based on the assessment.
  • Conduct a “Firewise Day” event.
  • Invest a minimum of $2 per capita in local Firewise actions for the year.
  • Create a Firewise Portal account and submit an application to your state Firewise liaison.  

  • For their Firewise Day event on May 6, both Detroit and Idanha held a free disposal day for vegetation residents removed from around their buildings. Keeping trees and shrubs at least 30 feet away from structures creates a defensible space and makes it harder for wildfire to catch a building on fire.

    The risk-reduction moves were timely as in July the Whitewater Fire started nearby in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. That fire would eventually grow to over 14,400 acres, coming close enough to threaten both communities.

    Representatives from the Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service and the Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District as well as local dignitaries and volunteers will be on hand for the public unveiling of the Firewise USA signs.

    Monday, December 11, 2017

    ODF sends engines, personnel to battle Southern California fires

    SALEM, Ore. — Some 25 engines and over 60 firefighting personnel from Oregon Department of Forestry districts and forest protective associations are in Southern California helping battle the 230,500-acre Thomas Fire.
     
    The Oregon firefighters traveled from various points around the state to California on Friday and Saturday. All arrived over the weekend at the California Southern Region Prado Mobilization Center in Chino, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
     
    The ODF firefighters are assigned to the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County. As of this morning, Cal Fire was reporting that close to 6,400 firefighters and more than 850 fire engines were engaged in fighting the fire, which is threatening a number of communities. The blaze, fueled by strong winds, has already burned almost 40,000 more acres than this year's largest wildfire in Oregon (the 191,125-acre Chetco Bar Fire).
     
    The five ODF task forces, each made up of five engines, were requested by California fire officials through an interstate resource-sharing system known as ROSS (Resource Ordering and Status System). They are in addition to over 300 other Oregon fire service personnel sent to fight Southern California fires by the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office and fellow entities.
     
    “California and Oregon have a longstanding relationship with mutual reciprocation when suppression resources are needed,” said Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty. “California was there for us during our challenging fire season this year and Oregon is fortunate to have the opportunity to return the favor.”

    Safety for the deployed firefighters is a priority for ODF leaders. Experienced team leaders are with each task force, several of whom have had additional training in firefighter safety. A seasoned agency representative and an agency representative trainee are with the strike teams to lend additional support.

    Severe fire weather is expected to continue, promoting significant fire growth in Santa Barbara County, where a number of communities are under mandatory evacuation orders. Cal Fire has reported that some 18,000 structures are threatened by the fire, with more than having been destroyed. For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire incident information page.

    This is the second deployment of ODF firefighters and engines to California this year. The deployment in October of five engines and personnel from the Southwest and Klamath-Lake districts was to help with devastating wildfires in Northern California.

    During the summer, California firefighting resources were among several out-of-state resources that answered requests to assist with the many fires that were burning across Oregon.
    # # #

    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 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.





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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.