Update on Southwest Oregon fires

Here is a VERY brief update on the wildfires burning in Southwest Oregon.

On the map above the red dots are the most recent, representing heat detected by a satellite at 3:31 a.m. PDT July 28, 2018.

The area around Bend and Medford is under a Red Flag Warning Saturday for low relative humidity, gusty winds, and unstable atmospheric conditions.

Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warning, July 28, 2018.
Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warning, July 28, 2018.

Fires in Southwest Oregon were very active Sunday

Above: The map of Southwest Oregon shows heat on wildfires detected within the last week. The red dots are the most current.

(Originally published at 10 a.m. PDT July 23, 2018)

Firefighters in Southwest Oregon are still battling wildfires ignited by the lighting storms that passed across the state a week ago. The good news is they got a reprieve Sunday when additional lightning that was predicted didn’t show up.

Here is a brief summary of the fire situation in Oregon prepared by the Northwest Coordination Center Monday morning:

The warming and drying trend in Oregon will continue [Monday]. This trend is moving north into Washington. Smoke covered the Southwest Oregon fires through the morning [Sunday] and cleared out by early afternoon. As the smoke cleared, large fires in Southwest Oregon exhibited more active growth through the afternoon and into the evening.

Four Incident Management Teams are prepositioned in the Geographic Area and ready for assignments if needed: NW Team 7 (Knerr), NW Team 8 (Johnson), NW Team 10 (Lawson), and PNW Team 2 (Schulte).

The Garner Complex consists of six fires east of Cave Junction. Together they have burned over 11,000 acres. Sunday 50 Oregon National Guard personnel arrived to staff ten road blocks around the clock.

The 1,200-acre Timber Crater 6 Fire in Crater Lake National Park is one of several fires ignited by lightning in and around the Park July 15. On Monday the Incident Management Team described their situation:

With the number of new fires in the Northwest this week, firefighting resources are strained. However, the Timber Crater 6 Fire is being aggressively managed for full suppression, commensurate with values at risk and the overriding objective of public and firefighter safety.

Interesting pattern of wildfires in Southwest Oregon

lightning fires southwest Oregon
Click to enlarge.

These fires in Southwest Oregon are arrayed in an interesting pattern. Most if not all of them I believe were caused by some of the 2,800 lightning strikes in the state last weekend. It makes you wonder if they were generated by an intense thunderstorm cell that moved northeast across that part of the state.

The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:59 a.m. PDT Saturday July 21.

United States and Canada share firefighting resources

Above: Saskatchewan air tanker 474 lands at Medford, Oregon July 19, 2018.

Tim Crippin shot these photos of firefighting aircraft arriving at the Medford, Oregon airport July 19. The two air tankers and the Bird Dog aircraft are owned by the government of Saskatchewan. The planes were mobilized through the Pacific Northwest Compact to Oregon; it was not an action that was taken by the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC).

Saskatchewan Bird Dog 161
Saskatchewan Bird Dog 161 lands at Medford July 19, 2018.

The Canadians use “Bird Dog” aircraft in a role similar to lead planes in the United States. A Bird Dog usually works with two air tankers as a three-aircraft module. This one, 161, is an Aero Commander 690D.

Saskatchewan air tanker 471
Saskatchewan air tanker 471 lands at Medford, Oregon July 19, 2018

In addition to these three aircraft, other firefighting resources have been flowing across the international boundary in recent weeks from the U.S. to Canada:

  • NICC dispatched 12 wildland federal firefighters to Ontario, Canada.
  • The Northeast Compact sent resources to Ontario including three Type 2IA crews from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. However, the New Hampshire and Maine crews were demobed earlier this week and the Massachusetts crew will be demobed on Sunday.
  • Maine will be sending a second Type 2 IA crew to Ontario on Saturday.
  • The Great Lakes Compact has sent to Ontario 10 single resources (2 aviation managers and eight firefighters).
  • Wisconsin State will be mobilizing eight firefighters also to Ontario, Canada.

No aircraft have been sent to Canada from the U.S.

One dead, 50,000 acres burn in Substation Fire

Northern Oregon southeast of The Dalles

Above: Substation Fire. Incident Management Team photo, July 18, 2018.

(Originally published at 6:33 a.m. PDT July 19, 2018)

Since the Substation Fire started July 17 southeast of The Dalles, Oregon it has claimed the life of one person and burned over 50,000 acres. The fire has blackened an area approximately 18 miles long by 8 miles wide, and has jumped the Lower Deschutes River in at least two places.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office reported that at 1:30 p.m. on July 18 deputies answered a call about a burnt tractor. They found the operator a short distance away, deceased, apparently killed by exposure to the fire. The operator may have been attempting to suppress the fire by using the tractor and disk to construct a fireline. The release of the person’s name is pending notification of next of kin.

The Sheriff’s Office has the most current information about the areas under evacuation orders. They have boats patrolling the river to notify hikers and boaters.

Officials have closed Highway 97 from Biggs Junction to Highway 197.

The Governor declared the fire a conflagration Wednesday, which allows the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighting resources.

map substation fire
Map showing heat on the Substation Fire detected by satellites as late as 2:59 a.m. PDT July 19, 2018. The red icons are the most current. It is likely that in some areas light fuels such as wheat and grass burned and cooled in between satellite overflights, therefore was not detected by the sensors. Click to enlarge.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Thursday. The forecast for the fire area calls for 78 degrees, 25 percent relative humidity, and afternoon winds out of the northwest of 19 gusting to 27 — not good news for firefighters.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team (Schulte) has been assigned to the fire.

One structure has been destroyed, an often photographed historic home.

Substation Fire
Substation Fire. Incident Management Team photo, July 18, 2018.
Substation Fire
Substation Fire. Incident Management Team photo, July 18, 2018.

The video below was uploaded by the Incident Management Team to Facebook on July 18, 2018.

Lightning leaves behind many fires in Oregon

Approximately 2,800 lightning strikes since Friday have caused 163 wildfires in Oregon

Above: The red dots represent wildfire heat in Oregon detected by a satellite at 3:34 a.m. PDT July 18, 2018.

(Originally published at 3:56 p.m. PDT July 18, 2018)

Thunderstorms over the weekend have created a great deal of work for firefighters in Oregon. At least 163 wildfires were detected in the state after 2,800 lightning strikes peppered the area since Friday. By Wednesday morning the numbers have settled down to 47 fires that have burned over 22,000 acres, according to the Department of Forestry Wednesday morning. However since those numbers were released the Substation Fire (see below) has been mapped at 36,000 acres. Dozens of fires are burning in the southwest corner of the state on the Umpqua, Rogue River, Winema, and Siskiyou National Forests.

The lightning was predicted days in advance. Many of the land management agencies proactively imported additional firefighting resources to deal with the anticipated workload following the lightning bust.

In Central Oregon firefighters are battling the 1,300-acre lightning-caused Cemetery Fire 12 miles southwest of Paulina. It started July 16 and is burning on the Ochoco National Forest and lands protected by the BLM and the State of Oregon.

Substation fire Deschutes River
The Substation Fire has jumped the Deschutes River in Oregon at least twice. Photographer unknown. Uploaded to Facebook July 18, 2018.

In north-central Oregon a few miles south of the Washington state line and The Dalles, the Substation Fire that started Tuesday has blackened about 36,000 acres and has jumped the Deschutes River at least twice. Evacuations are taking place in Sherman County. Officials have not released the cause of the fire.

The video below, described as “incredible, horrifying” by KATU News, shows a fire engine on the Substation Fire making an “inside-out attack”, or “attacking from the black”. This is a well known tactic and can be less hazardous than driving in flammable vegetation while making a mobile attack.