Current situation

Lightning mainly east of the Cascade crest is a concern through mid-week as it is a key source of new wildfire starts, often in remote and difficult terrain. Firefighters are still battling many large existing fires across Oregon, most of them started by earlier lightning storms.








Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse passes over Oregon with minimal impact on wildfire efforts


Months of planning for the great solar eclipse on Aug. 21 appear to have paid off. Minimal impacts on wildfire efforts were reported yesterday. Considering the influx of visitors during peak fire season, the day of the eclipse saw fewer than 10 new fires statewide across all jurisdictions. Those fires reportedly 
Above: Firefighters from ODF's Dallas office in Polk County
 watch the sky during the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
burned only about four acres. For the entire four-day eclipse period (Friday-Monday), new human-caused wildfire starts were down by nearly half. At Oregon State Parks, there were zero human-caused fires despite a heavy influx of campers.


Close cooperation between state agencies leading up to the eclipse helped spread widely messages about the importance of preventing wildfire. The Oregon Department of Transportation highway message boards alerted arriving visitors and residents alike to the extreme wildfire danger. Keep Oregon Green also peppered the state with similar messages on everything from billboards to restaurant placemats. 

ODF brought in additional ground and aerial resources from out of state under the Northwest Compact. After briefings they were deployed in the path of totality where fire danger was high to extreme and travel times uncertain. Some engaged with local ODF districts in helping on existing large fires that threatened ODF-protected lands.

Today, resources are being repositioned in light of the state's current fire picture. There are nine large uncontained fires currently burning in Oregon. The greatest in area is the Chetco Bar Fire in Curry County. The fire has continued to grow from its explosive expansion over the weekend, reaching an estimated 98,000 acres as of this morning.
Strong winds had been pushing the fire south, driving it onto land protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA). Several thousand acres of protected timber have been affected.

Level 3 evacuations have uprooted more than 3,000 people. The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at Riley Creek Elementary School in Gold Beach. 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, where smoke is affecting air quality.

Dry air mass, lower relative humidity and north/northeast winds continue to present heightened potential for rapid fire growth. Forecast weather points to continued fire growth to the southwest and south, which will threaten several high-value resources.
A Type One Incident Management Team will take over command of the fire tomorrow. Deputy State Forester Nancy Hirsch is already at the incident command post along with other personnel from ODF and Coos Forest Protective Association. ODF yesterday sent to the fire 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 are also being redeployed from the Whitewater Fire in the Cascades to the Chetco Bar Fire.
Total personnel on the scene from all agencies now stands at over 360.

The fire was started by lightning July 12 on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
New wildfires on ODF-protected land  

Prompt initial attack stopped a flurry of new fires in Douglas County on Monday. Firefighters from Douglas Forest Protective Association responded to four fires over the course of the day. They kept the largest - a vehicle fire along I-5 that spread up a steep hillside - from advancing beyond 1.5 acres. The others were kept to a tenth of an acre or less.

Updates on other existing Oregon wildfires

ODF has personnel engaged on all these fires. Their primary mission is to help coordinate and ensure the protection of ODF-protected lands.

Milli Fire - Deschutes National Forest
This fire just outside Sisters is reported as 11,236 acres this morning, a growth of 1,905 acres. The fire is 23 percent contained. The main part of the fire is moving into the Three Sisters Wilderness to the west and south.

Protecting structures remains a high priority. Level Three evacuation orders remain for the Edgington and Crossroads subdivisions and isolated structures south of Sisters. The Tollgate subdivision is under a Level One evacuation notice. Closures of roads and recreation areas remain in place.
Unified Command has been established with the Oregon State Fire Marshall's Green team. More than 640 personnel are reported engaged in fighting the fire. ODF, Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, and Oregon Department of Transportation are cooperating to manage the fire.

Falcon Complex - Umpqua National Forest
This group of fires burning in timber roughly 17 miles north of Prospect in southern Oregon has grown to 3,100 acres. It is reported at 18 percent containment. About 570 personnel are assigned to the fire. Structures and private land are threatened.

High Cascades Complex - in and around Crater Lake National Park
Road, trail and area closures are still in place on this group of fires, which has grown to 12,163 acres. About 450 personnel are assigned to the fire, including over 100 Oregon National Guard members.

Jones Fire - Willamette National Forest
This fire is now reported at 15 percent contained. The fire size is 5,354 acres. More than 600 personnel are assigned to the fire. It is located east of Springfield and about 10 mile northeast of the town of Lowell.

Miller Complex - Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
This group of fires has grown to 9,707 acres this morning. The Abney, Burnt Peak, Creedence, and Seattle fires are expected to remain active and spread as roll-out and associated uphill runs aid fire growth The Complex is burning in timber southwest Jackson County near the California border.

Nena Springs - Warm Springs reservation
Evacuation notices for this fire have been lifted. This fire is listed at 68,135 acres and 60 percent contained. Firefighters are extinguishing hot spots within the fire to prevent escape. The fire is now believed to have been human caused.

North Pelican - Fremont-Winema National Forest
Located about 28 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, this lightning-caused fire has been burning since Aug. 10. The fire, burning in timber, has grown moderately to 1,200 acres. It is also reported to be threatening structures. 

Staley Fire - Willamette National Forest
This lightning-caused fire 23 miles south of Oakridge is reported to have grown to 864 acres. It is burning just a few miles from ODF-protected land and is reported as 6 percent contained. More than 350 personnel are assigned to the fire.

Umpqua North Complex - Umpqua National Forest 
This fire is now reported at 11,680 acres. The largest fire within the complex is the Happy Dog Fire. In places, bearded lichen on trees are catching fire and becoming airborne, spreading the fire. ODF and the Douglas Forest Protective Association are part of a Unified Command formed in response to the fire. Campground and area closures are in effect and evacuations are in place. The immediate focus is on structure protection and securing firelines around developed areas.

Whitewater Fire - Willamette National Forest / ODF North Cascade District
This fire is still listed at 8,419 acres this morning. Burnout operations have been conducted to remove vegetation between this fire and control lines, helping keep the fire from spreading into private forestland. Two Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters are being redeployed from this fire to help with the Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon.

 

 

Chetco Bar Fire briefing in Brookings draws hundreds

Above: People jam a middle-school gym in Brookings yesterday to hear the latest information about the Chetco Bar Fire. The fire in Curry County has become the largest in Oregon so far this year. The fire is affecting lands protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association and has forced evacuations and closed roads and trails. ODF has dispatched resources to the fire, including two strike teams of engines.

Monday, August 21, 2017

ODF engaged in Chetco Bar and other large existing fires across Oregon


Over the weekend several existing fires in Oregon grew, prompting ODF to increase its engagement. The Chetco Bar Fire in Curry County has now become the largest wildfire in Oregon at more than 91,000 acres as mapped by infrared flight last night. The fire has grown a third larger since yesterday morning. Strong north winds have been pushing the fire south, driving it onto land protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA).

The fire is burning in timber and brush. It has been exhibiting extreme behavior with long-range spotting, prompting Level 3 evacuations and closure of roads and trails. The Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at Riley Creek Elementary School in Gold Beach. There is a community meeting planned for 6 p.m. today at Azalea Middle School in Brookings. While Highway 101 remains open, motorists are requested to avoid traveling the section north of the Brookings area if possible. Significant smoke is affecting air quality this weekend in Brookings. For the latest information on the Chetco Bar Fire, including evacuation details, the public should call 2-1-1.
 
Gov. Brown yesterday invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act to allow for the mobilization of additional resources. One resource being redeployed today to the Chetco Bar Fire are two Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters. The helicopters had been engaged on the Whitewater Fire. ODF has also sent two strike teams of engines to help.
 
A Unified Command has been set up. ODF has sent personnel, including Deputy State Forester Nancy Hirsch, to assist.  
 
The fire was started by lightning July 12 on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
  
ODF is fully engaged on wildfires
ODF is fully engaged on wildfires across the state, conducting those operations safely, efficiently and effectively. As was done in the busy wildfire years of 2013-15, to sustain our operations ODF has again mobilized resources from the national system and our Canadian partners.
  
ODF is integrated with Oregon's Office of Emergency Management to manage demands resulting from the solar eclipse. The influx of visitors coincides with the state's peak fire season.
 
New wildfires on ODF-protected land  

Lack of lightning helped make for few new fire starts statewide as of this morning. So far this summer, ODF's emphasis on putting out fires as early as possible on lands we protect has helped keep acres burned on those lands far below the 10-year average for this date of 48 acres per fire. This year's average so far is just above five acres per fire.

 Updates on other existing Oregon wildfires
 
Milli Fire - Deschutes National Forest
This fire just outside Sisters is reported this morning as 20 percent contained. The main part of the fire is moving into the Three Sisters Wilderness to the west and south. Information posted by the incident shows it at 10,496 acres.
 
Protecting structures remains a high priority. Level Three evacuation orders remain for the Edgington and Crossroads subdivisions and isolated structures south of Sisters. The Tollgate subdivision is under a Level One evacuation notice. Closures of roads and recreation areas remain in place.
 
Unified Command has been established with the Oregon State Fire Marshall's Green team. More than 640 personnel are reported engaged in fighting the fire. ODF, Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, and Oregon Department of Transportation are cooperating to manage the fire.
 
Falcon Complex -
This group of fires burning in timber roughly 17 miles north of Prospect in southern Oregon is now reported at 2,500 acres and still at 17 percent containment. Structures and private land are threatened.
 
High Cascades Complex - in and around Crater Lake National Park
Over a hundred Oregon National Guard members are still assisting this week at this group of fires west and south of Crater Lake National Park. The fires are reported at 11,246 acres and 68 percent contained. Road, trail and area closures are in place.
 
Jones Fire - Willamette National Forest
Continued growth on this lightning-cased fire, which is now sized at 5,354 acres. It is reported as 10 percent contained. Active fire behavior continues, with spotting and short crown runs. Structures and commercial timber are threatened. There have been area closures and campground evacuations. The fire is east of Springfield and about 10 mile northeast of the town of Lowell.
 
Miller Complex - Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
This group of fires has grown by about 2,500 acres to 7,874 acres this morning. Burning in timber, this is an increase of 634 acres. The Complex is burning in timber southwest Jackson County near the California border.

Nena Springs - Warm Springs reservation 
This fire is still reported at 68,135 acres. It is reported as 60 percent contained. The fire is now believed to have been human caused.
 
North Pelican - Fremont-Winema National Forest
Located about 28 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, this lightning-caused fire has been burning since Aug. 10. Reported at 1,100 acres, the fire is burning in timber. It is also reported to be threatening structurs. 
 
Staley Fire - Willamette National Forest  
This fire 23 miles south of Oakridge is reported to have grown to 831 acres. It is burning just a few miles from ODF-protected land. ODF is engaging with the Incident Management Team managing the fire.
 
Umpqua North Complext - Umpqua National Forest

This fire is now reported at 10,793 acres. The largest fire within the complex is the Happy Dog Fire at 5,208 acres. ODF and the Douglas Forest Protective Association are part of a Unified Command formed in response to the fire. Campground and area closures are in effect and evacuations are in place. The immediate focus is on structure protection and securing firelines around developed areas.

Whitewater Fire - Willamette National Forest / ODF North Cascade District
This fire has grown by 820 acres and is now sized at 8,419 acres. Burnout operations have been conducted to remove vegetation between this fire and control lines, helping keep the fire from spreading into private forestland. Two Oregon Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters are being redeployed from this fire to help with the Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon.
 
Fire conditions forecast
Sunny skies this morning made for perfect eclipse viewing in much of Oregon inland from the coast. That same dry, sunny weather, however, has dried out fuels, making them ignite easily.
 
Lightning is anticipated for south-central Oregon Tuesday, increasing the risk of new fire starts. Lightning is expected to spread more widely to central and eastern Oregon on Wednesday. Fire restrictions and closures remain in effect. To find those for ODF-protected lands, go to http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx 




 

Grass fire in Douglas County is stopped at 12 acres

An aggressive and coordinated initial attack by the Douglas Forest Protective Association and North Douglas County Fire and EMS stopped a fast-moving grass fire late Saturday afternoon three miles northwest of Yoncalla.  DFPA's helicopter dropped buckets of water on the head of the fire to slow its forward spread. Engine crews from both agencies and a bull dozer from the landowner then worked around the outside of the fire, stopping it at approximately 12 acres. The cause is under investigation.
 


Above: Firefighters douse smoking driftwood on
an island in the middle of the South Umpqua River.
On Sunday, DFPA firefighters and the Canyonville-South Umpqua Fire Department put out a fire burning on an island in the middle of the South Umpqua River about a mile north of Canyonville. Firefighters crossed the river to attack the fire, which was burning in grass, brush and driftwood. The fire was stopped at about one-quarter acre.
 
The small acreage burned has been typical of the suppression of fires on ODF-protected land so far this summer.
 
   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Explosive growth on Chetco Bar Fire leads to conflagration declaration

Several existing fires in Oregon grew yesterday, with the greatest growth on the Chetco Bar Fire in Curry County in southwest Oregon. Overnight strong north winds pushed the fire south, increasing it by thousands of acres and threatening land protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association. Infrared mapping shows the total fire size as of this morning had reached about 31,000 acres according to a news release from the fire's Incident Management Team. Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act to allow for the mobilization of additional resources.

The fire is exhibiting extreme behavior with long-range spotting, prompting Level 3 evacuations and closure of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The Red Cross has a shelter for evacuees set up in Gold Beach at Riley Elementary School. Significant smoke is also affecting air quality this weekend in Brookings. The fire was started by lightning July 12 on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Fire managers from the Coos Forest Protective Association are engaged in the fire. They are focused on lands they protect which are threatened by the Chetco Bar Fire. ODF will send additional resources to CFPA as they are needed to help that mission.

Temporary Flight Restriction issued for Chetco Bar
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the Chetco Bar Fire. Any private aircraft or drone that violates the TFR could face serious criminal charges. Visit the FAA's website www.KnowBeforeYouFly.org. Because of the potential to interfere with aircraft fighting a fire, it's never a good idea to send a private drone to any wildfire. Remember, "If you fly, we can't!"

ODF is fully engaged on wildfires
ODF is fully engaged on wildfires across the state, conducting those operations safely, efficiently and effectively. As was done in the busy wildfire years of 2013-15, to sustain our operations ODF has again been mobilizing resources from the national system and our Canadian partners.

ODF is integrated with Oregon's Office of Emergency Management to manage demands resulting from the solar eclipse. The influx of visitors coincides with the state's peak fire season.

Updates on other existing Oregon wildfires

Milli Fire - Deschutes National Forest
Protecting structures remains a high priority for this fire just outside Sisters. Evacuations, closures of roads and recreation areas are in place. Visible smoke from the fire may impact eclipse visibility in the vicinity. Information posted by the incident still shows it at 7,814 acres.

More than 480 personnel are reported engaged in fighting the fire. ODF, Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Oregon State Fire Marshall's Office, and Oregon Department of Transportation are cooperating with the Southwest Area Incident Management Team to manage the fire.

Belknap Fire - Ochoco National Forest
The lightning-caused wildfire 20 miles northeast of Prineville is reported at 75 percent contained. It has been burning in the Mill Creek Wilderness.

Falcon Complex -
This group of fires burning in timber roughly 17 miles north of Prospect in southern Oregon has grown by 300 acres to a total size of 2,200 acres. It is reported as 17 percent contained.

High Cascades Complex - in and around Crater Lake National Park
This complex of fires has grown a reported 572 acres over the past 24 hours to 11,226 acres. The fire is exhibiting moderate fire behavior. Over a hundred Oregon National Guard members are helping at the fire since being mobilized earlier this week. Road, trail and area closures are in place.

Jones Fire - Willamette National Forest
This fire east of Springfield has grown by a thousand acres and is reported this morning at 3,728 acres. Structures and commercial timber are threatened and there have been area closures and campground evacuations. Burnout operations are a part of the fire plan.

Miller Complex - Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
The total acreage burned was reported at 5,302 acres, an increase of 634 acres. The Complex is burning in timber southwest Jackson County near the California border.

Nena Springs - Warm Springs reservation
Growth overnight on this fire was more limited than yesterday, increasing by 2,132 acres to 68,135 total acres burned.

Staley Fire - Willamette National Forest
No growth in the fire had been reported by early this morning. It is still listed at 761 acres. This fire 23 miles south of Oakridge is just a few miles from ODF-protected land. ODF is engaging with the Incident Management Team managing the fire.

Umpqua North Complex - Umpqua National Forest
This group of fires is now reported at 6,878 acres. ODF and the Douglas Forest Protective Association are part of a Unified Command formed in response to the fire. Campground and area closures are in effect and evacuations are in place.

Whitewater Fire - Willamette National Forest / ODF North Cascade District
This fire is now reported at 7,599 acres, an increase of 568 acres. Burnout operations have been conducted to remove vegetation between this fire and control lines, helping keep the fire from spreading into private forestland. Two Oregon Army National Guard Ch-47 helicopters continue making water drops on the fire.

Fire conditions forecast
Skies should be sunny across the state for tomorrow's eclipse except at the coast. Dry, sunny weather keeps fuels dry, making them ignite easily.

Lightning is expected to return to south-central Oregon Tuesday, spreading more widely to central and eastern Oregon on Wednesday. New wildfires are likely in the wake of the thunderstorms. Fire restrictions and closures remain in effect. To find those for ODF-protected lands, go to http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx

Initial attack catches two new fires quickly

New wildfires on ODF-protected land
To date, ODF's emphasis on putting out fires as early as possible on lands we protect has helped keep acres burned on those lands far below the 10-year average.

Raven's Ridge Fire - Forest Grove Unit
ODF's Forest Grove unit responded to the 19-acre Raven's Ridge Fire. The fire started Saturday afternoon in steep slash and timber in western Washington County. ODF staff now have the fire 100 percent lined and are mopping up. They were aided in their suppression efforts by a logging operator's dozer and excavator. Other assistance was provided by rural fire departments from Banks, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Vernonia and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, as well as Fire Boss planes and South Fork inmate crews.

Backside Baldy Lane Fire - Douglas Forest Protective Association
An aggressive and coordinated initial attack by the Douglas Forest Protective Association and North Douglas County Fire and EMS stopped a fast-moving grass fire late Saturday afternoon three miles northwest of Yoncalla. DFPA's helicopter dropped buckets of water on the head of the fire to slow its forward spread. Engine crews from both agencies and a bull dozer from the landowner then worked around the outside of the fire, stopping it at approximately 12 acres. The cause is under investigation.

Friday, August 18, 2017

ODF adds resources to meet fire season needs as the eclipse nears


If you hang around Oregon Department of Forestry facilities this month, you may hear more accents than usual. That's because the agency has been bringing in additional out-of-state firefighting resources from as far away as Florida and Canada to augment local resources during the peak of fire season.

In addition to its year-round firefighting capabilities, ODF beefs up firefighting resources each spring through the hiring of seasonal firefighters. The agency also contracts with hand crews and aviation resources to make sure firefighting capabilities match expected demand. For periods of projected high fire activity when local public and private resources are likely to be fully committed, ODF can and does seek additional resources through mutual aid agreements.

Peak fire season coincides this year with an eclipse bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to Oregon. In preparation, ODF fire operations staff have worked with districts to ensure they have the resources on hand to fulfill their protection mission. In some cases, that has meant districts in the path of totality have prepositioned equipment and personnel in anticipation of congested travel routes. ODF has worked closely with private contractors to ensure their ability to deliver aviation and ground support. Anticipating the massive visitor influx, districts have also arranged for firefighter accommodations and laid in adequate fuel supplies.

Augmenting ODF's regular resources with help from outside the state looks especially prudent in light of limited fire resources nationally and the added complexity the eclipse brings. Last week Oregon moved to the highest level of fire preparedness (Preparedness Level 5) because of high fire activity.

The Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement (also known as the Northwest Compact) provides a framework for the loan of firefighting resources across boundaries and borders. Below are out-of-state resources that have arrived this week.

Alberta, Canada

Above: Deputy State Forester Nancy Hirsch welcomes
helitack and rappeler firefighters from Alberta, Canada
before their deployment to assist ODF districts
in the eclipse's path of totality.
Helitack and rappeler units from the province of Alberta provide welcome additional aerial attack capabilities. The three Canadian crews were oriented Thursday morning at ODF's Salem headquarters. The helitack crew immediately headed to Ukiah in northeast Oregon west of La Grande where its members will be using a local contract helicopter.
Today, one of the rappeler crews travels to Redmond in central Oregon and the other goes to Dallas in Polk County. Each rappeler crew brings with them a Type 2 helicopter.
Washington Dept. of Natural ResourcesTwo strike teams of engines from our neighbor to the north were briefed yesterday and are heading today to the North Cascade District. Each strike team is composed of five engines and 17 personnel. One is deployed in Molalla and one in Santiam.

New Mexico
New Mexico has sent engines and three 20-person hand crews. Two strike teams of engines totaling 10 engines and 24 personnel are now deployed at Prineville in the Central Oregon District. One 20-person hand crew is also hosted at Prineville, with another in John Day. A third hand crew is headed today to Santiam in the North Cascade District.

Overhead
To help manage the administrative, logistical and operational planning of resources during this period, seven personnel from North Carolina to Florida are working side-by-side with ODF managers in John Day, Prineville and at ODF's headquarters in Salem.


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. 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.