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.








Thursday, May 3, 2018

Prepare for wildfires during Wildfire Awareness Month


In the wake of last year’s serious wildfire season, the governors of Oregon and nine other Western states have proclaimed May 2018 as Wildfire Awareness Month. The chief executives signed a joint proclamation encouraging all citizens to “take steps to better prepare their home and communities for wildfires and work toward becoming a fire-adapted community."

Above: People who live in or near forest or grasslands
should clear vegetation and other fuels
from near their home to reduce the risk from wildfire.
During May, the 10 states are partnering with fire prevention agencies and organizations to increase awareness of wildfires. In Oregon, there are new public service announcements, some featuring Gov. Kate Brown. The announcements explain how every Oregonian can take steps to keep their home and the state safer from wildfire.

Kris Babbs, president of the Keep Oregon Green Association, said, “The Governor, along with the Keep Oregon Green Association, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, is seeking the public’s help to prevent human-caused wildfires like the ones that swept the state last summer.”

Wildfires – 45% of which were caused by humans – burned approximately 717,000 acres statewide last year, disrupting travel, degrading air quality, damaging trails and destroying homes and other resources.

“When it comes to preventing wildfires, there’s a lot at stake – lives, personal property, and the many resources provided by Oregon’s forests and rangelands,” said Babbs. “People caused more than 900 wildfires in Oregon last year. So people can make a big difference in reducing the number of wildfires.”  

”It is vital that all Oregonians work with their neighbors to plan and prepare for fire season, especially in those areas currently experiencing drought as well as the more fire-prone landscapes of central and southwest Oregon. Educating yourself now about how fires can get started will be key in reducing wildfire starts,” said Babbs.

She said Wildfire Awareness Month will provide lots of opportunities for people to educate themselves about wildfire causes and consequences and to participate in community fire prevention projects.

Wildfires can start at home
Wildfires in the wildland-urban interface often are started by human activity, such as debris burning or lawn mowing, and then spread to the forest. Once underway, a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses.

Oregon Department of Forestry’s Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields said, “Simple prevention strategies can make your home, family and community much safer. Spring is the perfect time to remove dead or flammable vegetation from around houses and other structures and to limb up trees around the yard. The goal is to reduce nearby fuels that pose a fire risk,” he said.

To get an early start on Wildfire Awareness Month, join your neighbors in reducing your community’s wildfire risk by taking part in National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on Saturday, May 5. The National Fire Protection Association has teamed up with State Farm Insurance to encourage residents to commit a couple of hours, or the entire day, to raising wildfire awareness and working on projects that can protect homes and entire communities from the threat of fire.

To learn even more, from May through June the World Forestry Center in northwest Portland is hosting a family-friendly exhibit about wildfire produced by the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Keep Oregon Green Association. Smokey Bear will be on site on Saturday, May 5 to kick off the exhibit and again on Saturday, June 9. There will be displays of fire-resistant plants and maps showing Oregon wildfires.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Oregon Department of Forestry prepares for 2018’s wildfires with seasonal hiring, contracting, training and technology


SALEM, Ore. — With smoke from the 2017 wildfires still fresh in the minds of Oregonians, the Oregon Department of Forestry is already gearing up for this summer’s wildfires.
 
The agency’s Interim Fire Operations Manager Blake Ellis said a lot of preparation goes on behind the scenes each winter and spring. “We work to ensure firefighters are equipped and ready to respond quickly and effectively to wildfires all year, with a special emphasis on being staffed and ready for the drier months,” said Ellis. ” We essentially double our firefighting forces going into the summer, when wildfire risk is highest.”
 
Readiness activities include:

·       Contracts and agreements for firefighting equipment, aircraft and other resources have been signed

·       A new policy governing use of remotely piloted aerial vehicles (also known as drones or UAVs) has been adopted. These systems will support fire protection and natural resource management.

·       Hiring of seasonal firefighters is underway. New firefighters will attend training at ODF and interagency fire schools across the state in June.

·       Permanent and returning firefighters will take fire line refresher training over the next two months.

·       Hundreds of miles of fire hose have been cleaned and rolled, ready for use statewide.
 
Last year ODF had great success testing out infrared technology. Carried on aerial vehicles, the equipment was able to see through heavy smoke on two Oregon wildfires – Horse Prairie and Eagle Creek. These systems provide sharp images and real-time fire mapping for fire managers, boosting safety and tactical planning. This year ODF is incorporating these technologies into its toolkit.
 
ODF’s Aviation Manager Neal Laugle said the increasing use of various types of aircraft in recent years highlights the importance of keeping up with new technology to achieve the agency’s mission. “From detection to fire mapping and active wildfire suppression, aircraft continue to play a critical role in the fight to save lives, resources and property,” said Laugle.
Above: A large air tanker drops water in Grant County
 as part of a demonstration of its firefighting capabilities.

Last year, contracted aircraft flew 1,477 hours on firefighting missions for ODF, more than 100 hours above average, he said. For 2018 the agency has contracted the same number of aircraft as last year.
 
“We have 27 aircraft based across the state, including helicopters, fixed-wing detection planes, single-engine air tankers and a large airtanker, all of which we’ve secured for our exclusive use. We also have call-when needed agreements with a number of companies for additional firefighting aircraft. Among these agreements is one for the use of a 747 modified to carry 19,000 gallons of retardant should the situation warrant.”
 
ODF will continue to have access to aviation resources from other states and federal agencies upon request.
 
“Uncontrolled fires can be devastating. Our relationships with our partners are invaluable to support prevention and suppression efforts statewide,” said Ellis.
# # #

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.

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.

Followers

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.