Saturday, September 20, 2014

Onion Mountain Fire 30 Percent Contained

Fire at a Glance

Size: 4,105 acres

Containment: 30%

Assigned personnel: 1,001

Aircraft:

  • 5 Heavy-lift helicopters
  • 5 Medium-lift helicopters
  • 2 Light-lift helicopters
  • 5 Air Tankers available
  • 2 Fixed-wing air management aircraft

Location: 15 miles west of Grants Pass, Oregon

Firefighters fortified existing containment lines by wetting down the fire’s edge with water pumps and hoses, extinguishing burning material within the fire perimeter. Crews made progress establishing and securing fireline on previously unlined areas, including the west and northwest flanks, leaving most of the fire with at least a minimal control line. Several spot fires found outside of the fire perimeter were corralled and secured during the previous shift.

Yesterday’s clear skies allowed helicopters to drop water on areas of heat inside the fire perimeter. Air operations will continue supporting ground troops today, especially in areas posing containment issues due to inaccessible terrain. Dozers finished a contingency line east of the fire, providing an additional safeguard between the fire perimeter and residences.

Firefighters will brace for another round of hot and dry weather today as near-record temperatures may reach 100 degrees with minimum humidity in the upper teens to lower 20s. Strong east winds transitioning to west winds in the afternoon and an unstable atmosphere will also challenge containment efforts on all flanks by stimulating fire activity.

A Level 1 Evacuation Notice advising residents to be aware of fire danger in the area remains in place for residents in the Pickett Creek, Shan Creek, Taylor Creek, and Galice Creek areas.

Please be careful while recreating in the forest this weekend as fire season is still in effect with an extreme fire danger warning. Local residents and visitors to the Merlin area are advised to drive cautiously and adhere to posted closure notices for both public and firefighter safety.

For further information, call (541) 471-7441, send an e-mail, or visit the Josephine County Emergency Preparedness page on Facebook, or the Onion Mountain Fire's pages on InciWeb.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Wildfire: It's not if, but When


This fire season has shown to be a long and grueling one. Stretching across the state from Klamath Falls to La Grande to Veneta, it started early and seems not to have an end in sight yet. Defensible space around your home is the critical piece to improve the survivability of your home in the event of a wildfire, and there is still time to create it this fire season.

“Creating defensible space around your home is the best way to make your home more survivable in the wake of a wildfire,” says Oregon Department of Forestry’s Matt Flock. “The more you can do to make your home defensible now, will be critical if a wildfire hits your community and you’re not home.”

When a wildfire starts, there is little to no warning. Defensible space is the way to prepare our homes and property to have a fighting chance in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), said the Community Wildfire Forester.

During a wildfire, firefighters work intensely to prepare homes in the path of a wildfire. The more that landowners can accomplish before the incident happens, the less time firefighters will need to spend preparing the homes and can focus instead on stopping the fire.

“It’s the little things you can do that play a key role in keeping your home, family and community safe,” he said.

Wildfires that occur in the WUI often are started by human activity and then spread to the forest. Corvallis recently had an 86-acre fire on the north side of town that threatened many homes. For residents, it was a sobering moment of what fire can do and how real it can become to communities near wooded areas.

Once underway a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses. Creating defensible space around a house is a proven way to make it less vulnerable to wildfire. The National Firewise Communities Program has great tips for WUI residents to refer to. The program says “Defensible space” simply means to:

  • Maintain the landscape around a home to reduce fire danger.
  • Provide safe access to firefighters so they can protect it.

To create defensible space, Firewise advises to start with the house and work your way out:

Check the roof and rain gutters
Leaves and needles in gutters are very susceptible to the ember showers that commonly occur at the head of a raging wildfire. Cleaning that material out from the gutters and off the roof of your home will make it much more difficult for a fire to start there. 

Remove fuel sources close to the house
The perimeter of the home and attachments out to about five feet are vulnerable if organic mulch, arborvitae or other flammable plants are located in that area. A wind-cast ember or a creeping ground fire could ignite fuels in this zone and carry flames to the structure.

Maintain landscaping in the middle zone
Plants in the zone about 30 to 100 feet from the house should be low-growing and well irrigated. Firewise advises to:

  • Leave 30 feet between clusters of two to three trees, or 20 feet between individual trees.
  • Encourage a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees.
  • Create fuel breaks, such as driveways, gravel walkways and lawns.
  • Prune trees up six to 10 feet from the ground.

Pruning trees in this way inhibits a wildfire from climbing into the crowns and carrying flames from tree to tree, and eventually to the house. Doing that allows the fire to stay on the ground where firefighters can fight the fire and keep its spread to a minimum.

Outer Zone
The zone 100 to 200 feet from the home requires less attention but still should be looked at for ways to create an outer buffer to wildfire. Trees may need to be thinned, though less intensively than those closer in.

  • Remove any heavy accumulations of woody debris.
  • Thin out clusters of small trees and remove ladder fuels that can climb into tree canopies.
  • Reduce the density of tall trees so canopies are not touching.

Homeowner / Firefighter access
Prune trees along the driveway and trim back shrubs so that the egress to leave your home is not blocked by intense fire behavior. Firefighter will need to use that same road to get into your home as well. Keeping it trimmed and open allows them to do their job and attack the fire as well.

More tips on how to create defensible space around your home and protect it from wildfire can be found at: www.firewise.org.

Onion Mountain Fire Update for Friday

Fire at a Glance
 
Size: 4,102 acres
 
Containment: 20%
 
Assigned personnel: 962
 
Aircraft:
  • 5 Heavy-lift helicopters
  • 5 Medium-lift helicopters
  • 2 Light-lift helicopters
  • 5 Air Tankers available
  • 2 Fixed-wing air management aircraft
 Location: 15 miles west of Grants Pass
 
Closures: Sam Brown Campground and Horse Camp, Briggs Campground, Myers Campground, Portions of Forest Road (FR) 2500, FR 2509, and FR 2706. http://www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou/
 
Firefighters had another productive day building containment lines around a good portion of the fire perimeter, taking advantage of decreased burning conditions from cool, wet weather. Crews progressed significantly in their effort to contain the western and northern flanks by constructing direct line along the unchecked fire edge.
 
Crews began installing pumps and hoselays so water can be used to bolster completed handline and dozer line and begin mopping up burning materials along the fire perimeter. As a contingency or back up plan, crews and heavy equipment will continue brushing road systems and use chippers to dispose of the debris.
 
The majority of aircraft assigned to the fire remained grounded yesterday due to poor visibility, but clear skies today should enable helicopters and airplanes to assist the firefighting effort by dropping water and providing aerial surveillance.

Fire personnel will now dig in as hot and dry weather paired with steady east winds and poor overnight humidity recovery should elevate fire activity and test existing control lines over the next few days. The forecast calls for daytime highs in the mid-70s and mid-80s with relative humidity bottoming out at 20 to 25 percent.

Approximately 150 people attended the public meeting last night at Fleming Middle School. Fire management team members and local agency representatives addressed the audience providing the fire situation, dispelling community rumors, and answering questions from concerned citizens.

Evacuation levels have been removed for all of Riverbanks and Limpy Creek roads. A Level 1 Evacuation Notice advising residents to be aware of fire danger in the area remains in effect for residents in the Pickett Creek, Shan Creek, Taylor Creek, and Galice Creek areas.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Industrial Fire Precaution Level 2 Takes Effect Today

Rain yesterday and the probability of more rain today allowed the Oregon Department of Forestry to lower the Industrial Fire Precaution Level to level 2 (two) today. This affects industrial operations on ODF-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Fire prevention regulations for the public are unchanged.

Under IFPL 2, the following regulations are now in effect for regulated use zones SW-1, SW-2, SW-3, SW-4, SK-3, RR-1, RR-2 and RR-3:
  • The use of fire in any form is prohibited
  • The use of power saws is prohibited, except at loading sites, between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
  • The use of cable yarders is prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
  • Blasting is prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
  • Welding or cutting of metal are prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
 Additionally, commercial operators on forestlands are required to have fire suppression equipment on site and provide watchman service.
 
  

Rain Cools Onion Mountain Fire

Fire at a Glance

Size: 4,077 acres


Containment: 8%
Assigned personnel:  780
 
Aircraft:
  • 6 Heavy-lift helicopters
  • 5 Medium-lift helicopters
  • 3 Light-lift helicopters
  • 5 Air Tankers available
  • 2 Fixed-wing air management aircraft
 Location:  15 miles west of Grants Pass, Oregon

Rain occurred over much of the fire area yesterday afternoon and throughout the night, giving fire personnel an opportunity to make good headway building containment lines.  Firefighters held and improved existing lines, while continuing fireline construction along the south and east flanks of the fire.  Crews and heavy equipment also made progress preparing indirect lines on the western portion of the fire utilizing existing roads and ridgetops.

Showers and cooler temperatures forecasted for today will drastically decrease fire activity and allow firefighters to continue direct handline and dozer line construction where safely possible.  High temperatures are expected to range from 60 to 70 degrees, while minimum humidity will be around 50 to 55 percent, as the low pressure system remains in the area.  Hot and dry weather is predicted to return to the area this weekend.

Air operations were limited for most of the day due to cloud cover and smoky conditions, and a low cloud base could keep much of the available aircraft grounded today.  A structure protection group has completed their assessment of the nearby residences and will remain in place to implement a defensive strategy in the event the fire grows north and eastward and threatens residences.

A public meeting will be held Thursday (today) at 6:30 p.m. in the Fleming Middle School to provide fire information and address concerns.  All interested persons are welcome and encouraged to attend.  The school address is 6001 Monument Drive, Grants Pass, OR 97526.

Road, area, and campground closures remain in place to provide  public and firefighter safety.  A Level 1 Evacuation Notice advising residents to be aware of fire danger in the area is still in effect for residents in the Pickett Creek, Shan Creek, Riverbanks Road, and Taylor Creek Road areas.


Fire Information Number: 541-471-7441

Fire Information E-Mail: 
onionmtfireinfo@gmail.com

Fire Information Website:  
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4111/
 
Josephine County Emergency Preparedness” Facebook Page

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fireline Construction Continues on Onion Mountain Fire

Working from a secure anchor point on the southeast corner of the fire, crews and dozers made progress establishing and securing containment lines along the east flank.  Firefighters also began constructing direct and indirect lines along the southern and western flanks of the fire utilizing existing roads and a major ridge.

Fire at a Glance

Size: 3,735 acres


Containment: 5%

Assigned personnel:  514
Aircraft:
  • 6 Heavy-lift helicopters
  • 5 Medium-lift helicopters
  • 2 Light-lift helicopters
  • 5 Air Tankers available
  • 2 Fixed-wing air management aircraft
Location:  15 miles west of Grants Pass, Oregon
 
Area Closures:  Detailed information regarding the area closures can be found at:
 
http://www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou/

Closures: Sam Brown Campground and Horse Camp, Briggs Campground, Myers Campground, Portions of Forest Road (FR) 2500, FR 2509, and FR 2706.


A Level 1 Evacuation Notice, advising residents to be ready, remains in effect for residences in the Pickett Creek, Shan Creek, Riverbanks Road, and Taylor Creek Road areas.  Road, area and campground closures have been issued for public and firefighter safety. 

Helicopters dropped water and air tankers dropped retardant to assist firefighting efforts, but poor visibility due to smoky conditions limited the use of aircraft in some sections of the fire.  Lingering smoke may hinder air operations again today.

The fire grew about 600 acres to the north Tuesday.  An incoming low pressure system will bring cooler weather and  showers are expected this afternoon and into Thursday.  High temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees and minimum humidity around 35 to 40 percent are forecasted for today.

Fire personnel will take advantage of the weather by continuing to build containment lines as close to the fire’s edge as possible.  A structure protection group to assess home protection remains in place in the event the fire grows and threatens homes and businesses in the area.

A public meeting will be held at Fleming Middle School, Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to provide information regarding the Onion Mountain Fire.  The school address is 6001 Monument Drive, Grants Pass, OR 97526. All interested persons are encouraged to attend.


Fire Information Number:  541-471-7441

Fire Information E-Mail:
onionmtfireinfo@gmail.com

Fire Information Websites:  
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4111/

“Josephine County Emergency Preparedness” Facebook Page

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16 Pocket Card and Stats

Southwest Oregon District continues the record setting trends for ERC values and fire danger late into fire season. With the unseasonably warm dry weather persisting we will continue to see the possibility for radical fire behavior. As such fire danger will maintain at extreme through this week until significant weather can bring relief. The forecast only calls for chances of moderate precipitation across the region. Please visit the SWO Fire Data site for the latest pocket card and fire stats.