Friday, August 22, 2014

SWO Fires Receive IR Flights/Mapping

Today we were able to do reconnaissance flights with an infrared camera of the Oregon Gulch, Old Blue, and Rogue River Drive Fires. This allowed us to produce detailed heat signature maps that will focus crews on the remaining hot spots for mop-up. SWO Fire Data has been updated with these new maps. Please find them under the Maps heading then 2014 SWO District IR Maps.


Fire Line Terminology: Lined vs. Contained

When reporting progress toward containing a large wildfire, I will provide the amount of fire line that has been constructed and an estimate of the fire's level of containment. Both are expressed as percentages, but having a fire line completely around a fire doesn't necessarily mean the fire is completely contained.

Containment means there is little chance that a fire will be able generate enough intensity to jump the fire line and cause more trouble. A fire line all the way around a fire isn't the only factor in declaring a fire contained. The Oregon Department of Forestry likes to have a ring of completely extinguished area inside the fire line, which increases the distance between active flames in the center of the fire and the unburned fuel (vegetation) outside the fire line. On a large fire (100 acres or more) we shoot for having 300 feet inside the fire line completely mopped up before declaring it contained. If the fire has significant amounts of unburned fuel inside the fire line, we may not declare the fire contained until the areas of unburned fuel are burned up (by us, or by nature) or isolated (digging fire lines inside the main fire line to keep active flame from creeping or spotting into unburned areas).

It sometimes takes days or a week or more after a fire line is completed to be able to declare a fire contained.

ODF SWO District Fire Update

Yesterday afternoon, a fire broke out on McConville Pk., 6 miles north/northwest of Gold Hill, and was originally estimated to be 4 acres and growing. Three helicopters, a retardant bomber, several engines and a bulldozer were dispatched. Within an hour, the fire was knocked down by water drops from the helicopters and one load of retardant. Two of the helicopters, the retardant bomber, the bulldozer, and all but three of the engines were released. The fire was contained at less than 2 acres and was determined to be human-caused. Evidence was collected at the scene and the investigation into who caused the fire is underway.

The Old Blue Mountain Fire was 85 percent contained at the end of day on Thursday. Today, there are 4 crews, 5 engines and 4 water tenders working on mop up. Tonight, 1 crew, 2 engines and 2 water tenders will be assigned to patrol and mop up hot spots. Two 2-man teams will also be assigned to night shift to use hand-held infrared heat sensors to find buried coals.

The Rogue River Drive Fire was declared 100 percent contained Wednesday. Firefighters and engines continue to patrol the fire and mop up remaining hot spots.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Old Blue Mtn Fire 75 Percent Contained

Excellent progress on mopping up the Old Blue Mountain Fire has brought the containment level up to 75 percent this morning. The evacuation alert for Humbug Creek Rd was removed yesterday at 6:00 p.m., and the roadblock on the right fork of Foots Creek Rd was taken down at 8:00 a.m. today.

The fire is 99 acres in size and firefighters have completely mopped up all hot spots at least 200 feet inside the fire line. Their goal is to mop up 300 feet inside the fire line and remove hazard trees within 400 feet of the line.

Night shift is scaling back to one crew and two engines. The following fire suppression resources are assigned to the Old Blue Mountain Fire today:
  • 6 crews
  • 8 engines
  • 5 water tenders
  • 4 helicopters
  • 1 bulldozer
In addition, a strike team of engines is available for mop-up on the Old Blue Mountain Fire and for initial attack response to new fires that may break out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Evacuation Alert Lifted for Humbug Creek Rd Area

Fire officials monitoring the Old Blue Mountain Fire today will remove the Level 1 evacuation alert from homes on Humbug Creek Rd at 6:00 p.m. The portions of road affected by the alert include homes on the main fork (address 2542 and up) and the entire left fork.

The evacuation alert was ordered early Tuesday afternoon by Applegate Valley Fire District No. 9 and the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Grants Pass Unit.

The roadblock near the 4 mile marker on the right fork of Foots Creek Rd remains in place.

The Old Blue Mountain Fire is holding at 99 acres and mop-up is in full swing.

Mop-Up Hits High Gear on Old Blue Mountain Fire

Thousands of gallons of helicopter-borne water was poured on the Old Blue Mountain Fire Tuesday, significantly knocking out numerous hot spots within the 99-acre blaze that broke out late Monday during a thunderstorm. Early this morning, Incident Commander Steve Wetmore (ODF) reported “Old Blue is one hundred percent lined and one hundred percent plumbed,” meaning the fire line was completed overnight and a system of fire hoses now encircles the burned area.

The fire is 30 percent contained.

The firefighters’ objective today is to mop-up hot spots 300 feet inside the fire line and patrol outside of the fire line to watch for spot fires. Helicopters and air tankers are available, if necessary.

No new fires were reported yesterday on ODF’s Southwest Oregon District. Reconnaissance flights are in the air today to search for holdover fires from Monday’s thunderstorms.

A Level 1 evacuation alert (Be Ready) remains in effect for portions of Humbug Creek Rd. in Jackson County:
  • All homes on the left fork of Humbug Creek Rd;
  • Addresses 2542 and above on the main fork of Humbug Creek Rd (the dirt portion).
The status of the evacuation level will be reviewed this afternoon. More progress on perimeter mop-up is necessary before removing the evacuation alert.

Also, the roadblock near the 4 mile marker on the right fork of Foots Creek Rd remains in place today.

New Pocket Card and Fire Stats Update

SWO District will continue in extreme fire danger through the forecast period, for the latest pocket card and updated stats please visit SWO Fire Data. A slight warming trend is expected and fuels continue to be very dry. The scattered precipitation received from recent weather events did help keep our ERC values in check. However, fires have continued to be difficult to control and quickly exceed initial attack capacity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Helicopters Hammer Old Blue Mtn Fire

An endless parade of helicopters carrying large buckets of water dumped their loads from early morning until nearly nightfall on the Old Blue Mountain Fire today. Plenty of mop-up still needs be done, and a segment of fire line remains to be built, but the fire is considerably less fiery and smoky this evening than on Monday night.

The size of the Old Blue Mountain Fire has been revised upward to 99 acres, a product of more accurate mapping. The fire did not significantly increase in size today. Eighty-five percent of the fire line has been completed and the fire is 30 percent contained.

A full night shift will strive to connect the open sections of fire line, continue running hoses around the perimeter, and mop-up hot spots near to the fire line.

A Level 1 evacuation alert remains in effect on the left fork of Humbug Creek Rd and the unpaved section of the main fork of Humbug Creek Rd (starting from address 2542). Also, the right fork of Foots Creek Rd remains closed around the 4-mile mark except to residents and fire-related traffic.

August 19 Old Blue Fire Map

The latest map for the Old Blue Fire has been updated on the SWO FIRE Data website under Maps>2014 Fire Perimeter Maps. It is approximately 99 acres. 

How Long Will Fire Season Last?

The question has been coming up a lot lately: When will fire season end?

According to reports from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the outlook for the Pacific Northwest is for warmer and drier than normal weather through November. Fire season in ODF's Southwest Oregon District is usually over by mid-October -- but, on occasion, it has extended into November. The last time it occurred was 2006 when fire season ended Nov. 2. The longest fire season has extended into fall, according to records kept since 1967, was 1987 when it ended Nov. 12.

Will this year set a new record? We'll have to wait and see, but the long-range forecasts are predicting the end will come later rather than sooner.

See ODF's Southwest District fire season start/end date history.

Air Tankers and Helicopters Bombard Old Blue Mountain Fire

Evacuation Level 1 Alert Issued for Humbug Creek Rd. Areas

Thunderstorms late Monday sparked eight lightning-caused fires on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in southwest Jackson County and southeast Josephine County. The largest is the Old Blue Mountain Fire, estimated at 60 acres, located 8 miles south of the city of Rogue River and 3 miles north of the town of Applegate.

A Level 1 evacuation alert (Be Ready) is in effect for portions of Humbug Creek Rd. in Jackson County:
  • All homes on the left fork of Humbug Creek Rd;
  • Addresses 2542 and above on the main fork of Humbug Creek Rd (the dirt portion).
 Notifications to residents affected by the evacuation alert were made by phone trees activated by Applegate Valley Fire District No. 9. Level 1 means to prepare for an evacuation – plan what things are essential to take, care for pets and livestock, and deciding where you will go should the evacuation level rise.

A roadblock is in place on the right fork of Foots Creek Rd. to restrict traffic to local residents and fire-related vehicles. No evacuation alerts are in effect for the Foots Creek area.

The Old Blue Mountain Fire is being fought by ODF Southwest Oregon District firefighters. Crews and bulldozers working overnight established a fire line 75 percent of the way around the fire’s perimeter, and the fire is 15 percent contained. Helicopters and air tankers are being used today to cool flames around the fire’s edge and to reinforce fire lines.

Fire suppression resources assigned to the Old Blue Mountain Fire today include:
  • 9 crews
  • 12 wildland fire engines
  • 8 helicopters
  • 4 air tankers
  • 3 bulldozers
  • 3 water tenders
 

Eight Lightning Fires Found on SWO District

[ Updated 12:11 p.m. ] A Level 1 evacuation alert has been issued for all homes on the left fork of Humbug Creek Rd., and homes on the dirt portion of the main fork of Humbug Creek Rd. (addresses 2542 and above). Residents are being notified by phone trees activated by Applegate Valley Fire District No. 9.

[ Updated 8:28 a.m. ] Old Blue Mountain Fire is estimated at 60 acres and has a fire line around 75 percent of the perimeter. A roadblock is in place on the Right Fork of Foots Creek Rd to restrict access to fire-related traffic. No evacuations have been requested.

Monday's thunderstorms sprayed lightning across the Siskiyou Mtns in southwest Jackson County and southeast Josephine County. Eight fires have been found so far, the largest of which is the 40-acre Old Blue Mountain Fire.

Here's the list of fires:
  • Sterling Creek, (T38S, R2W, Sec 20 NW, SE) 0.5 acre
  • Oregon Belle, (T38S, R3W, Sec 15) 0.1 acre
  • Dick George 989, (T40S, R7W, Sec 6, SE, SW) 0.01 acre
  • Ferris Gulch #1, (T38S, R4W, Sec 30, SE, NW) 0.1 acre
  • Ferris Gulch #2, (T38S, R5W, Sec 25, SE, NE) 1 acre
  • Grays Creek, (T37S, R4W, Sec 34, NE, NW) 0.1 acre
  • Little Sugar Loaf, (T39S, R5W, Sec 33, SE, SE) 0.75 acre
  • Old Blue Mountain, (T37S, R4W, Sec 34, NE, NW) 40 60 acres
The only fire not contained and in some stage of mop-up is the Old Blue Mountain Fire.

Reconnaissance flights take off at 8:00 a.m. to search for holdover fires.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18 Evening Lightning Map Update

Continued scattered lightning has occurred into the evening of August 18. For the latest lightning maps please visit the SWO Fire Data website.

Lightning Starts Several Fires on SW Oregon District

[ Updated 9:10 p.m ] Old Blue Mtn Fire is 40 acres. Crews are building fire line tonight. Crews for day shift Tuesday have been ordered. 

A late-afternoon series of thunderstorms started several fires in the Applgate and Williams creeks' drainages. The largest is a 20-acre fire on Old Blue Mtn, approximately 8 miles south of the city of Rogue River. Air tankers, helicopters, and engines are working to contain the blaze.

Two fires, each less than 0.25-acre, are in the Forest Creek and Sterling Creek areas. Other fires have been staffed in the Grayback Mtn and Williams Creek areas in southeastern Josephine County. 

Red Flag Warning for Lighting in SW Oregon

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for lightning across much of southwest Oregon. The target area extends from the Siskiyou Mountains to the Cascade Range. One smoke was been reported at 5:19 p.m. on Grayback Mtn. near Williams in Josephine County. The Red Flag Warning is in effect until 11:00 p.m.

IFPL 2 Takes Effect Today

Loggers and workers on other industrial operations in forests and wildlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry in southwest Oregon can work a few extra hours starting today. Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) 2 took effect at 12:01 a.m. today.

There are no changes to public fire prevention regulations.

Under IFPL 2, the following restrictions now apply:
  • The use of fire in any form is prohibited;
  • Power saws must be shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., except at loading sites;
  • Cable yarders must be shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 pm.;
  • Blasting, welding and the cutting of metal must be shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Additionally, commercial operations must have fire suppression equipment and watchman service on the job site.

August 18 Lightning Maps

Continued scattered lightning has occurred in our area. For the latest lightning maps please visit the SWO Fire Data website. Please note the KML file will include all lightning data from August 17 as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17 Evening Lightning Update

A small amount of highly scattered lightning occurred tonight on the fringes of SWO District. A couple fires have been detected on adjacent federal lands around Lake of the Woods. Most of the storms came with rain. For the latest lightning maps please visit the SWO Fire Data website.