Monday, November 23, 2015

Oregon's Coordinated Wildfire System Pays Dividends in 2015 Fire Season

In 2015, a witches’ brew of drought, hot weather and dry lightning spawned more than 2,000 wildfires across Oregon that consumed some 631,000 acres of forest and rangeland. In a massive coordinated effort, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and its local and federal partners fought back, stopping hundreds of new fire starts at small size and preventing many large blazes from growing into mega-fires.

The state’s wildland fire agencies have long recognized the need to work closely together. Oregon’s forest ownership pattern - a spider web of intermingled public and private lands - demands it. From that understanding developed the concept of a “complete and coordinated system” of fire protection. The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, ODF and other wildland fire agencies seamlessly respond to wildfires. This approach reduces redundancy of fire suppression forces and provides more thorough coverage.

So, how did the system perform in 2015, the third severe fire season in as many years?

  • ODF Incident management teams deployed eight times to support large fire incidents across the state. These teams worked together with several federal, state and local partners to accomplish common goals.
  • Oregon National Guard supplied several helicopters and flight crews, other equipment and 375 personnel to form 18 fire hand crews.
  • Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office (OSFM) provided three structural fire teams to safeguard homes and other developments. This freed up ODF teams to concentrate on containing the wildfires.
  • Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) provided 330 inmates from 10 institutions to fight fire and support fire camp operations.
  • Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) displayed prevention messages and road-closure information on highway reader boards to inform travelers.
  • Personnel, equipment and aircraft came in from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, 27 states and two Canadian Provinces.
  • The forest landowner community once again pulled together to assist by providing heavy equipment, skilled tree fellers and intermediate fire management.
  • Private contractors provided 20-person firefighting hand crews for 165 fires in five states, working more than 8,500 crew-days.

Ron Graham, deputy chief of ODF’s Forest Protection Division, said, “A majority of the help came from companies, agencies and individuals whose primary jobs and duties are not fire emergency-related. Through coordination and training, ODF was able to use their unique skills, abilities and knowledge to fill critical fire positions.”

He extended thanks to all ODF staff as well as the agency’s many partners in the complete and coordinated system, along with their families, and to all Oregonians for their contribution to the 2015 firefighting effort.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Winds Cause Several Wildfires on Saturday

Gusty winds on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 31, pushed several burning piles of debris into wildfires. The largest wildfire was the 55-acre Dunn Butte Fire, south of Ashland near Hwy 66. Other fires included:

  • A 12-acre fire near Cloverlawn Drive, between Grants Pass and Murphy;
  • An 11-acre fire in the Dark Hollow Rd area, south of Medford and west of Phoenix;
  • A 3-acre fire on Adams Road, west of Talent;
  • A 1-acre fire near Griffin Lane, south of Jacksonville;
  • A 1-acre fire along East Evans Creek Road, east of Wimer;
  • A 1/10th-acre fire on Tolman Creek Road, on the south end of Ashland.

Many structural fire protection agencies were involved, as well as resources from the Oregon Department of Forestry and CalFire. All of the fires were contained by nightfall and subsequent rain showers helped to quell the flames. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fire Season Ends Today on ODF-Protected Lands

Rain has brought an end to fire season today on the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District. All public regulated use and industrial fire prevention regulations have been terminated as of 7:00 a.m. today.

The fire danger level is "low" (green).

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rain Brings Fire Danger Down to Moderate

The fire danger level on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District dropped to “moderate” (blue) today due to rain. The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) is 1 (one).

Fire season remains in effect but many fire prevention regulations have been removed.

It is now all right to have campfires outside of designated campgrounds, but it is necessary to get the landowner’s permission before camping on private land, and to always ensure a campfire is extinguished before leaving camp.

Power-driven machinery may be used without restriction.

Vehicles are not limited to being driven only on improved roads.

However, the following fire prevention regulations remain in effect:

  • No debris burning, whether in piles or burn barrels;
  • No shooting with tracer ammunition;
  • No exploding targets;
  • No fireworks.

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

  • Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328
  • Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Decreases Public Use Restrictions in Most Forest Areas

At 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, October 17, campfire restrictions will be lifted for most lands administered by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. While conditions are still dry, fire danger has decreased enough for Forest visitors to resume having campfires. Additionally, the Industrial Fire Precaution Level will decrease to a Level 1.

IFPL 1 (one) will also go into effect Oct. 17 on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Some Rogue River-Siskiyou NF fire restrictions on campfires remain in effect year-round: fires along the Illinois River Road are permitted only in Forest Service-constructed fire rings, and no camping or campfires are allowed in the Ashland Watershed.

Fire managers on the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF would like to remind the public that conditions across the forest continue to be dry, and the threat of wildfires will continue until significant rain arrives in the area. Please continue to be cautious with any activity that may ignite a wildfire. Always extinguish campfires completely, and only use campfires in areas void of flammable vegetation. Avoid driving and smoking in or near dry grasses and fuels.

The 2015 fire season provided significant firefighting challenges across the western United States. In order to meet future challenges in the most effective way possible, the U.S. Forest Service will continue to use prescribed burning as a tool to reduce build-up of hazardous fuels, restore forest ecosystems, and improve resiliency and safety of communities within the wildland urban interface. The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest would like our cooperators and public to know preparations are beginning for Fall prescribed burning.

Planned projects for this Fall include burning piles of stacked materials, and low-to-moderate intensity understory burns of vegetation on the forest floor. The primary goals of these projects are to reduce the severity of future wildfires, and to provide added protection for communities in the wildland urban interface. In addition, the burns will promote a diverse and more resilient forest, and improve habitat for wildlife. The burns will take place on all Ranger Districts, between now and late Spring of 2016. Specific dates of and location of ignitions will depend on local weather and fuel conditions.

All prescribed fire projects will be conducted in accordance with an approved burn plan to ensure the safety of people and property in the area. Burn plans describe the specific conditions under which burns will be conducted including the weather, number of personnel, and opportunities to minimize smoke impacts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

ODF Firefighters Tackle Wildfire on Willits Ridge

[ Update 2:54 p.m.: Engine crews have knocked down the fire. One helicopter has been released from the fire and one engine from the U.S. Forest Service has been added to the suppression force. Lots of mop-up to do. ]

Oregon Department of Forestry Medford Unit firefighters are converging on a small wildfire reported this afternoon on Willits Ridge, 5 miles west of Prospect. Two helicopters, a bulldozer and five engines have been dispatched. The spotter in the first helicopter on-scene estimates the fire is approximately 1/2 acre and is burning in brush and other ground-level vegetation. The fire is on flat ground and is next to a road.

The fire was reported just before 2:00 p.m. A 5-person crew from ODF's Grants Pass Unit is also en route to the fire.

The legal description for the fire area is T 32S, R 2E, Sec 30.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wildfire Burns Workshop, 10 Acres on Meadows Rd

A wildfire speeding through dry grass burned a large workshop and 10 acres of woodland this afternoon along Meadows Rd. Structural fire protection engines from Jackson County Fire District 3 and wildland fire engines, a bulldozer and three helicopters from the Oregon Department of Forestry kept the fire from causing more damage.

Crews were dispatched to the fire around 4:15 p.m. and had the wildfire contained by nightfall.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.