Chetco Bar Fire in Oregon quadruples in four days, approaches 100,000 acres

Chetco Bar Fire

Above: Chetco Bar Fire August 17, 2017. Inciweb.

(Originally published at 9:35 a.m. PDT August 22, 2017)

On July 13, 2002 the Biscuit Fire started in southwest Oregon. Under a limited suppression strategy 7,000 workers fought the fire as it spread into California. By November it had burned up nearly 500,000 acres and $150 million, becoming one of the largest wildfires in the recent history of the 48 contiguous states.

Chetco Bar Fire satellite photo
Satellite photo of smoke from the Chetco Bar Fire, August 20, 2017. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite. Note that the smoke from the fire is a different color from the other fires in the area to the southeast and northeast.

This summer another very large wildfire, the Chetco Bar Fire, is burning partially in the footprints of the Biscuit and another nearby blaze, the 1987 Silver Fire. Also under a limited suppression strategy, the 788 personnel assigned today are faced with the steep slopes in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness as well as brush and dangerous snags left in the previously burned areas.

Evacuations are in effect and Curry County Sheriff’s Office says at least five homes have been destroyed by the fire.

map Chetco Bar Fire
The red line was the perimeter of the Chetco Bar Fire at 2:30 a.m. PDT August 22, 2017. The white line was the perimeter on August 18, 2017.

The Phoenix National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) Team with Incident Commander Bob Houseman, on the fire since July 29, explains their task:

Because of the risk to firefighter safety, low probability of success of a direct attack strategy and minimal values at risk, fire personnel are currently focused on constructing contingency lines, conducting reconnaissance for access, scouting safe entry points, locating natural features for containment opportunities, protecting wilderness values and developing a long term plan for safely engaging the fire.

On August 18 at 4 p.m. the Chetco Bar Fire covered 22,042 acres. Early Tuesday morning August 22 it was mapped at 97,758 acres, approaching the 100,000-acre threshold of becoming a “megafire”.

Map of the 2002 Biscuit Fire
Map of the 2002 Biscuit Fire, by Oregon Business.

For the last several days it has been spreading rapidly to the southwest growing to within five miles of Brookings, a community on the Pacific coast. It is 14 miles southeast of Gold Beach.

The Team is using a mixture of direct, indirect and point protection tactics when and where they expect there is a high probability of success. The fire is burning in areas of fire scar and islands that were previously unburned, as well as areas west of the previous fires. The combination of down and dead fuels in the old burns and newly cured grass adds complexity for firefighters.

satellite photo Biscuit Fire
Satellite photo of the Biscuit Fire on September 1, 2002. Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

64 thoughts on “Chetco Bar Fire in Oregon quadruples in four days, approaches 100,000 acres”

  1. Thank you for your “attention and coverage of fires”. Here in Brookings we originally thought we were in it alone. Moved to Brookings in l994 and this is our 3rd fire. We lived through the Repeater Fire and the Biscuit Fire and thought lessons had been learned but apparently not – again the human factor. Wild fires have a will of their own…and do what they want & when. We had come from a large city in the mid-west and had only viewed wild fires on TV – trust me – you have to live through one to know exactly what they involve. Many fires “have a human element – either they are started by stupidity or grow because of human stupidity”. Repeater and Biscuit had the human stupidity element and now the Chetco Bar Fire – the same. What is this “stupidity factor”? Well it involves decision making, or lack there of, arguments about jurisdiction and not letting the front line (those people who do the job – run it) – just like the generals vs the front line grunts! Who best to fight a war better but those who have to fight it – not the talking heads…….

    1. Let the privates run the war? Do you know how stupid that is? You make it sound like the people who are in charge don’t have to make hard decisions and they don’t know what they are doing. The guys making decisions are making them for a reason and your opinion is coming from a place of ignorance. Additionally, the guys driving shovels and picks are driving those tools for a reason.

      Sheesh

      1. Many of the front line firefighters like hotshots, heli attack, and hand crews want to put these out asap. But there is also the lesser know factors of overtime and major incident reimbursement. So when a fire gets large enough, USFS gets to charge a ton of stuff to the final bill. All new equipment for those crews and overhead. Management for USFS is also rated one of the poorest among the federal level agencies. Unfortunately, too many tragedies like Yarnell Hill, Storm King Mt, and Mann Gulch continue to haunt USFS and BLM. Policies are developing into a pullout and stage mentality. Which ensures no deaths but does not get the job done. So while fire science plays catch up to our tactics, current policies will continue to dictate that front line grunts sit on the side lines. I don’t think there is a right or wrong here so much. Just an industry of inherent danger that has an impossible standard of no death incidents. Incident Commanders in the field are even getting too wary to lead because of lawsuits that will be filed against them from land/livestock owners and the families of firefighters that perished. So what’s the answer? Perhaps a compete review of the policies of these agencies. But until citizens stop seeking revenge on USFS, I suspect that the agencies will continue to look after themselves first.

        1. Come on, Stan: you’re really throwing an awfully wide net: Mann Gulch was in 1949, and Yarnell was an Arizona State Forestry fire.

      2. After spending 40+ tears on the fireline in Ops (including Biscuit in 2002), I fully agree with Steve’s comments. Ike, Patton and Rommel were brilliant strategists. Private Ryan, not so much.

        1. Ike, Patton and Rommel are not running firefighting for the USFS today, and if they were they would not sit and wring their hands until the battle was lost. None of them wanted to loose men, but could see that stopping the enemy is a do or die deal and there is no second place. Wildfire is the most heartless and arbitrary enemy anyone can face, no talking or compromise..you get it or it gets you… everyone on the fire line knows this… thanks for being there… as citizens, we owe them land managers that do all of what is needed to insure healthy forests… lets insist they no longer have to pack the twelve volume set of rule for firefighting in their packs on the line anymore…

          1. Sam, you are so right. “Web of rules and regulations” ie: Biscuit fire, pre determined the outcome of our Chetco Bar Fire. To allow the 1/4 acre fire to build up a 5000 acre head, in a basin, the middle of summer, with the objective of let the fire come to us, with the certainty of the Chetco/Brookings Effect to occur was not only mismanagement, it was insanity. By the way, inciweb is rewriting the history of our fire already. No longer can you read that this started as a 1/4 acre fire.

    2. You are right on the money!!!! This disaster is directly related to the miss management of this incident since day 1

    3. I get that it is rough terrain and would be impossible for ground crews to do anything, however, this was a 1/4 acre fire to start!! Are you telling me we don’t have the technology to dump fire retardant on an area that small?? I understand that this is a wilderness area but to let a fire take root in a powder keg of dry vegetation and on top of that in an area where there is nothing to curtail the winds!! I thought we were suppose to protect the wilderness areas and not let it burn to ash while destroying the habitat of all that wildlife we are trying to preserve. Mother nature gave us a one two punch with the Silver and Biscuit fires and this fire is the knock out punch. Let’s change our strategies about how we clean up after this bout and thus Mother Nature may not be so brutal the next time and yes there will always be a next time guaranteed!!

      1. The only thing we are protecting the wilderness areas from is humans. I believe if you look, fires in “Natural Areas” are supposed to be left alone. This was mandated several years ago and to my knowledge has not been changed. The only time they are supposed to fight them is when they encroach on someone’s property outside the designated natural area.
        Years ago, they used to slash burn in the National Forests which kept these sort of fires down however environmentalists and others decided that wasn’t a good idea, that we should just leave it alone.

        1. And the result of those environmentalists suggestions we are now have one hell of a mess. Nice going environmentalists!

          1. Right on Joyce.

            Environmentalist in my knowledge don’t have any dogs in the fight !

            Where are they now and their foresighted opinion​.

            I’m sick of the smoke and tired of scars on the lands.

            Don Mohr

      2. Again, the environmentalists decided that it was bad for the environment to use flame retardant. Now 100,000 acres and 5 homes destroyed and probably countless amounts of wildlife killed! Nice going environmentalists!

        1. Yeah THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS!!!!! – who exactly are you talking about? which environmentalists burned up the forest? This is hilarious, just pick an amorphous group of people you don’t like, categorize everything bad as their idea or their fault, and then exclamation point your way through the comment thread. I bet you can’t even find one or two specific organizations or a small group of actual people that you are referencing. Just “them” and “they” – “those environmentalists” [finger wag].

          I’d love to hear a reasoned analysis where real agents are held accountable from you. From what I’ve read, all the forestry and fire science agrees that we get big wildfires because of over-suppression in the past (i.e. not letting it burn), and because of logging in the past, and because of post-fire salvage logging. The first thing that happens to a logged area is that it loses soil and therefore water retention ability. The second growth is drier and thicker because there’s more sunlight and less water, then you get a tinderbox. Beyond that, as a former wildland firefighter myself, you don’t send crews in without a clear strategy for how to fight the fire and without good exit plans and the requisite amount of rest, otherwise you put people’s lives at risk. Until you’ve seen it, you have no idea how fast a fire can blow-up. This is out of the ICs control, casting blame is just you trying to assert control over a situation that is out of our hands and in mother natures.

          1. Thank you for your cogent comments, Tim. I get so sick of people parroting the corporate party line: “It’s the fault of them damned envarnmentists!” as if the timber industry’s practice of massive clear-cutting, salvage logging and creation of even-age, single species tree farms were a viable means of forest management.

          2. Burning at least 75% of a National Forest in less than 20 years says a lot about letting wildfire loose “naturally”… go look at our industrial forests, they are still here and growing faster than they are cut… none of us living today will ever see a forest in the Chetco or Biscuit country again in our lifetime, this is a living testament to the forward thinking “Let it Burn” policy that is doing a wonderful job of keeping southern Oregon green… always remember when dealing with government types, figures don’t lie, but nothing stops lairs from figuring…

    4. Agreed, The management of this fire at its beginning was idiotic. The Silver Fire, The BiscuitFire and now The Chetco Bar Fire will go down as a monument to ivory tower hug a tree group that has no idea how to fight a wildfire. The truth is they do not want to protect people, they want to protect nature as if humans were not a part of nature. We must shove these losers out of power and let realists take charge.

    5. Right on Barb..
      Steven Davis on his u tube video SAID who was near the little
      little lightning strike and being FIRE FIGHTERS, asked permussion to put it out. As always ” follow the $ “.
      Betcha U… I and my Kimmy coulda done so with a few shovels and some wet blankets.
      Ahhh the suffering of the NOT stupid…the inocent wildlife, thats what hurts and angers me the most.
      By the way…HOW are YA ? ? Kimmy said she had ran into you sometime back…I imagine maybe with that red stop sign she’s always holding. Ha ! love from de South American. Jungle. marylyn jester marylynjester@ hotmail.com

  2. Very interesting on the reburn areas and safety issues for crews. Perhaps an off season strategy following a burn would include snag felling as part of salvage and restoration. Some of the skilled seasonal crews could be used. All it takes is money!

    1. I think the salvage was blocked by environmentalists and so was the managing of all our forests. If the environmentalists would like to come here and take care and salvage all the fallen, dead and burned out area and reseed it all, that would certainly take care of these messes with fires. That also includes taking care of the wild animals and humans that suffer with these horrific fires.

      1. Well said! The “environmentalists” need to educate themselves on the care and raising of a healthy forest!

  3. This is at least the third large fire in Oregon that has started in a wilderness area then spread outside of the wilderness. Once outside the wilderness the costs, impacts and safety issues go up dramatically. While I generally support wilderness fire policies, it appears a review of regional fire policies and and individual fire management plans is needed. Allowing a fire to burn naturally in September might be a pretty safe decision, allowing a start in July with 60+ days of fire season in front of you is much more risky. Are we making the right decisions?

    Costs are always an issue. the limited suppression option is the creepiest in the short term. But what happens if it burns outside the wilderness? Everyone knows about the high cost of suppression on a large, long term incident. Where do the potential impacts to private property (e.g. timber and improvements) and non wilderness forest resources get factored into the decision process? How about the impact of having to evacuate hundreds of people for even a few days?

    Safety is also a prime consideration. The exposure to hazardous situations for hundreds of firefighters and air crews over an extended period reaches an unacceptable level at some point. Stay at it long enough and something bad will happen.

    I understand these are not easy decisions. I’ve been there, I’ve had to guide managers and make the decisions. I am not saying these were bad decisions. I am saying we need to take a good hard look at plans and decision processes.

  4. Don’t feel bad….in California they have many times the resources and stupid people run the response about the same.

  5. Yes, they should of reacted to it and not wait, now it’s getting way out of control! Thanks for all the volunteers whom come to help! be safe- family down there!

  6. Guy commented that it started from a 1/4 acre fire. Actually it started smaller. His comment on don’t we have equipment to drop retardant…
    My comment is well yes we do have the equipment, however the helicopters are not sitting on their skids just waiting to drop retardant nor are the bombers just parked waiting. Most are dispatched continuously. In my opinion, the attack strategies are calculated risks based on best knowledge and experience.

  7. Joyce is right. Save the critters and watch them and their mecca go up in smoke. Hummm go figger!

  8. In reading the comments submitted about this Incident, it’s apparent that everyone has ideas about what coulda/shoulda/oughta have been done to suppress this fire at the IA stage.

    But in thinking about it, it struck me that few if any of the commentors may have ever been involved on wildland fires where firefighters have died in the early stages of suppression efforts because of the lack of adequate Escape Routes and/or Safety Zones. I have!

    My first fatality fire was the Dude Fire in 1990 where 6 firefighters died. Later that summer, I went to the Wasatch Fire in Utah where 2 more died. Then there was Glenallen in 1993 in LA County, and the Buchanan Fire in New Mexico. The worst was South Canyon, when I found kids like Tami, Jon-Boy and Bonnie that I knew personally from my days as Forest FMO at Prineville, as well as local Missoula SJ Don Mackey and the others. No Escape Route, no Safety Zone. I continued my involvement on IA fatality fires in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and other places across the US. Always the same story.

    During those fatality events, I also served as a T-1 Ops Chief and a Safety Officer on wildfires, always remembering the Lessons Learned from my investigations. Sometimes, we all walked away from the line and let the fire burn.

    These fatality events have continued throughout the first years of the 21st Century, and I fear will continue to occur until we accept as fire professionals, and acknowledge to the Public, that we can NOT stop all wildfires at the IA stage. The blame does NOT lie with environmentalists, but rather with Mother Nature, who always deals the last hand, especially when we violate our own rules that were developed in firefighter’s blood.

    And then, of course, there are those folks who chose to build in the WUI, or live in fire-adapted ecosystems without redeeming their responsibilities to the land or the firefighters.

    Sorry for the long-winded dissertation …….!

    1. The blame lies totally with the with the environmentalists they came up with this retarded policy of let it burn, and oh by the way you can’t use machines or motors and lets block all road access so no one can get to the fire and on salvage logging and reproduction of trees so brush and fuels are high and no explosives on the ridges fire fighters would have nonfeuled safe areas. we have to let it burn naturally and oh by the way let it burn and see what it does (the biscuit fire) . Now the Indians burned at the right time of year reducing fire risk and promoting new plant growth for the animals for food they gardened the earth and conserved not preserved it. There is zero excuse for these wilderness areas and policies. When there is a fire on private land there are aircraft on that fire in short order with personnel coming as needed. There is no excuse for the negligence we are seeing so don’t pee on my head and tell me that it’s raining.

    2. Thank you Dick for hopefully opening other’s eyes from a firefighters prospective. With luck it will not have fallen on deaf ears but usually one has to have done the job in any capacity to understand how things work.

    3. Thank you Dick.
      Somewhat related, and perhaps a harbinger of some change:
      http://www.kpax.com/story/36193921/governor-bullock-hears-of-progress-fighting-the-lolo-peak-fire
      Gov. Bullock: “And recognize that for all of you, even as we lose a couple of structures that this has been a hard fire season on anybody that’s come out here. I mean, to lose two lives, folks who were fighting fires and making a difference for our communities each and every day. Any frustrations that people have we ought to be given a little bit of grace as a result of that.”

    4. As a wildland fire fighter(first year of retirement, 27 years) I feel it was my duty to learn all I could from those tragedies. Have read the reports on most that you mentioned. Your post was not long winded enough in my opinion. we could all stand to learn from the things you know.

  9. Folks, a good read is by Glen Martin, “Doorway to Disaster” regarding the Angora Fire and environs at Lake Tahoe. That region like most of our NFs are in “great ecological disequilibrium”. And so, in my opinion due to the environmental movement and the legal processes.

  10. You echo my feelings exactly, Dick. I know what the Biscuit did out there. My husband was on the Chetco Bar for a roll and every day he had service I was thankful to hear he was miles away working on contingency line. The thought of him- of any one of our amazing firefighters doing IA out there in that with no safety zone was terrifying.

  11. I love our firefighters and would never want to put them in harms way!!! We need need a better solution on what to do to prevent this kind of disaster in the future. We’ve had over 30 years since the Silver fire and 15 years since the Biscuit fire, we cannot close our eyes and hope it doesn’t happen again.

  12. Whoa…let’s try not to blame anyone here, as this fire was started by lightning (or naturally, if you prefer). Environmentalists are not to blame here, either. Fire is an integral part of most forest ecosystems and allowing these fires to burn naturally eleviates the underbrush and reduces the fuel for future fires. Years and years of Smoky the Bear and fire suppresion are the reasons these fires get so big – lots of fuel built up over the years. Yes, some animals may die in the process, but many plant species require these fires for reproduction (opening seed cones) and they provide an opportunity for growth in an area that may not have had much sunlight prior to the fire.

    As usual, people just get in the way of mother nature. If you build your house in an area where fire occurs naturally, then you should expect a fire now and again. Just as those folks who build in tornado alley or in the paths of hurricanes should expect their houses to be damaged when nature fights back. We all take chances to get what we want…and that’s why we have insurance!

    It is amazing that this fire has had no casualties, considering the size and rate of spread. Can’t we just be satisfied that notification systems were 100% effective and no lives were lost? Why must everyone find someone to blame for a completely natural event?

    I say good job to those in charge for keeping firefighters alive! Those who lost their houses should perhaps reconsider where to build…I hear Antarctica doesn’t have too many fires.

    1. Not putting out the first lighting bust, at 1/4 acre was a management decision. your blameless enviros have had there way is the Siskiyou’s for around 20 years now, and they have managed to burn most of our forest, and are still waiting to burn the rest. When the smoke jumpers were here in Cave Junction, they jumped on all sm0kes and put them out. Now firefighters are forced to watch until there is no chance and then fall back. The USFS managers knew what the result of letting the wilderness burn in July would be… it would get out and eat everything in its path. The Biscuit was not salvaged, the snags were not fell and so it keeps burning. Bigger issues of no road maintenance, no on going brush disposal work, no logging to reduce fuels, and government policy that burned over forest land is equal in every way to a healthy vibrant forest. Unless this changes, all Oregon forests will be gone in 50 years, and only fire scars will remain.

      1. Sam is right on this one. Also don’t forget the silver fire 1987, same area. One drop from 747 Supertanker that CalFire has contracted on this 1/4 acre fire start would have saved at least 6 homes. FS has acted in a criminal fashion on Chetco Bar Fire. Arson for hire couldn’t have done a better job. Took a guided tour today of fire results ……………..unimaginable. Complete and utter destruction, mountain top to mountain top, valley to valley. Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics MIST “light on the land” tactics need to be dumped before next summer or we will see this again.

    2. So let’s just say that no one lives in these areas, it hasn’t been developed yet, there is no one around the area – AT ALL. Gee what happened with fire in that situation?
      Why I believed it just burned..! And you probably were looking at a healthier ecosystem for it.
      We as humans have put ourselves into these situations. If you live in the forest know it’s going to burn. If you live in “tornado alley” – gee I bet they call it that for a reason. If you live in snow country – expect bliizzards and avalanches. Get my point people?

  13. I’ve flown this area for 20 years, including the Biscuit fire. Its easy to say it could be IA’d and suppressed, but in practice it is much harder than it looks. I’ve slid rappellers down ropes, but the trees are so tall and the forest so dense, that unless there is LCES and good back up, it is really dangerous and isolated. You aren’t going to easily get the guys out if it blows up, there are no LZ’s! I’ve also put countless tens of thousands of gallons of water on with spot drops. Yet somehow the fire grows under logs and below the duff and without those ground guys, it is almost impossible to put out. While I agree at a 5 acre fire should be able to be stomped out, especially with DC-10’s lining it until the forest is pink, spending a million dollars on a 5 acre fire is a tough call. Do have any ideas? Nope. I just know that there are some very, very good people in key positions making decisions based on the real time issues, not some hypothetical ideal situation. I’ve been blessed to fly with many of them on recons while they discuss fire tactics, and do my best to comply with their planning afterwords. It is a tough job.
    Keep it out of Brookings, protect the lives of firefighters and homeowners and suppress it until fall rains. That is about the best you can ask for.

    1. By the time you were flying on the Biscuit it had already blown up and was unstoppable… the point is that IA works on small fires if you get right on them, trying to hold on to a few thousand acres on fire in southern Oregon in summer does not. I cut logs all over the coast range for over twenty years, worked falling on several fires back when the FS was the best at firefighting anywhere, things like this did not happen. Open the roads, sell some timber (if there is any left) salvage all you can… give the folks that made these choices a hodad and a tree bag and let them work every fall, winter, and spring for the rest of their lives and they will not replant enough to notice… make sure things change this time, the excuses are thin already, the policy and the rules of engagement must change!!

  14. The fire started back in July , it would have already been out if not for one very bad decision made by Kate Brown . Please remember this come election time .

    1. So this fire started in a National Forest Wilderness, but the Guv of Oregon is responsible? Please explain her role and responsibilities before Election Day rolls around?

  15. It can be hard to look at a fire that was a 1/4 acre or even less than see it blow up into 100,000 acre mess. But there definitely are times when even a fire that’s a single tree just can’t be tackled with what you have. I know because I’ve been there and believe me no one likes looking at a tiny fire and saying “there is nothing I can do.” Sometimes though conditions are just too bad to be able to put it out and still keep your crew alive. Some single lightning struck trees just aren’t worth trying to cut down.

  16. I’ve been on duty for the Silver, the Biscuit and now the Chetco Bar fires. USFS, ODF and as a contractor, respectively. We live in Selma, closer to the strike site than Brookings, but most of us were more concerned with fire spread that way, than our way. Obviously, local knowledge adds exponentially the grasp of a fire and the weather here is pretty reliable. Big E winds potential from mid August through end of Sept. (Sat night, we were in a steady E pattern for about 6 hrs. 20mph. 62000 acres crowned, ran at the same time.) Century mark temps exceeding 2 weeks duration expected. RH recovery during burn periods of most any day are single
    digits. It’ll rain 10 days into October, but only for a minute. To not fight fire aggressively now is a bad choice.
    These three monsters, plus the older Collier Butte burn have left millions of board feet of now dry, punky snags, which are a nightmare on any level.
    The environment is rough, but not inaccessible. It’s remote, but not not supportable. My neighbor was stationed jump base Siskiyou, just down the road, and he made 18 jumps into the Kalamiopsis and put out 18 fires. We heard a helitac went IA and shortly after, they went to the indirect attack mode, digging line some 6 miles away, by the river and the road. Blew over all that, when she ran.
    Today, FS folks are all over Curry Co., crews coming in flooding town, high visibility, looks like loitering to many. Ground pounders this morning told us they are staging. It’s not a good impression, and the FS is starting to get grilled, rightly so. Any policy that allows anything other than suppression is misguided, dangerous and devastating. At least around here, around now.
    There was no need for this. Big evacuation, terrible air quality, fear in the community. As I’m writing this 3 friends are going through their burned houses. The FS says they think there are more but can’t/ won’t/ don’t get in there to confirm. A damn shame.

    1. Sir,
      I have read quite a few of the replies and I agree completely with you. I’ve done this a few years now and realize that I have quite a bit to learn still. However there is no justifiable reason on why this fire could not have been stopped small.

  17. To back up the feds because you’ve flown, fought, or IC’d for them means you drank the kool-aid. And way to much of it. Time to get out of fire camp & back to the real world…we are lucky the wind shut off when it did or (God forbid) Brookings would be a dream.

    A common misconception, misreported fact is that this fire started in July. It actually started in late JUNE. It was DISCOVERED July 12. I am unaware of any other landowners in the state who have let a fire skunk around on them for almost 2 weeks before sending in the troops.

    This fire could have been IA’d just like the numerous other fires DFPA & ODF have successfully IA’d & extinguished in our region throughout the fire season. Don’t tell me they aren’t working in steep, brushy, dangerous terrain.

    The FACT is the strategies, at a management level are completely different. The state/private agencies (DFPA/ODF/et al.) in charge of protecting private, state, & BLM lands are focused on extinguishing fires to protect valuable landowner assets (timber, aesthetics, infastructure) with firefighter safety at the TOP of their priority list. Unfortunately the timber doesn’t hold much value any more on our federal lands & is frequently sold as a loss due to, yes, misguided environmental regulations.

    The human element here is indeed due to suppression techniques over the last several years, creating DENSE OVERGROWN forests with ladder fuels & high intensity stand replacing fires. These fires are doing NOTHING beneficial for the landscape, & in fact are quite possibly the largest point source pollution (sediment delivery) to our area streams & rivers. How? They create a hydrophobic surface on the soil rendering it impervious to the rain, hampering future reprod, & contributing to runoff. Perhaps we should sue the feds for the endangered salmon runs? Modern logging practices are carefully designed (& regulated) to reduce sediment delivery to insignificant levels.

    In addition, the repeated, high intensity, stand replacing fires are nuking the limited regeneration we are seeing out there, any potential overstory seed source (canopy), & sterilizing the few dormant seed left in the seed bank (soil). To think that fires of this intensity & scale, back to back to back are beneficial is to ignore science & reason. Have fires, sometimes stand replacing always existed in the West? Yes. Do we have the tools & knowledge to ensure they aren’t causing devastating harm to OUR public lands. Yes. WHY AREN’T WE USING THEM?

    In absence of fire, proactive management (commercial timber harvests/ladder fuel removal in High Use Areas, fuelbreaks), combined with IA on summer starts, & letting late season fires burn with LOW intensity would benefit us all economically, environmentally, & aesthetically. I’m not sure who wants to hike through that snag forest when it’s all said & done. Matter of fact, it will likely be closed due to the sea of hazard trees.

    YOUR public land YOUR tax dollars. Hard at work. Not really.

    1. Nice comment, I agree with almost everything you said. I’ve flown for most agencies, but have never seen any kool-aid. But I have seen firefighters in impossible situations and watched very near misses and some tragedies to firefighters. This areas should be used as an example of how not to manage a resource, for all the reasons you point and more. If it were me, I’d be sending a type 1 with retardant, bomb the crap out of it, and monitor it closely with a type 2 bucket ship. It is very difficult (though not impossible) for a fire to work through heavy retardant. What a mess they have now.

      1. To keep ground crews out of harms way several well placed water drops (remember this is wilderness we’ve banned retardant) could have put the hurt on this fire early. Resources were NOT committed elsewhere like others have mentioned. This was early in the season, & we had no significant fires going anywhere. We got a ship & a rappel team, before they dropped back to a “management” strategy building line on the next ridge over. To think your going to “hold” a wildfire in a 5,000 ac. basin loaded with fine, regenerating fuels from the last fires through the months of JULY, AUGUST, & SEPTEMBER with a little ridgetop scratch dry hand line is idiocy at best.

        A dozer line painted with retardant alongside probably wouldn’t have held once this fire built that 5,000 ac. head of steam & got a little shove from the Chetco affect.

  18. Last night, the fire went to “unified command”, sharing overhead duties with ODF, Oregon Fire Marshal, Coos Curry Fire with the FS. Brookings folks are a bit relieved to see some local management take over. Yet, while the last 48 hrs. has allowed some good line building up on the NW flank,
    we’re heading back to E winds, over 100 this weekend. And the FS has a rather large burnout planned along some 20 + miles of line. Dicey at best in these conditions.
    The Kalamiopsis is a beautiful but inhospitable area without fire. Low volume stands, little water, plant toxic serpentine rock. Fire starts are common. Once again, managers have allowed something small to escape and tear into prime stands of old growth, acres of private reprod, and, of course, into a spread out, rural community. I couldn’t count the creeks it’s crossed and the runoff will foul prime anadramous fish habitat. 1000 people evacuated. Real fear, real loss and real questions are palpable in town.
    It’s a mess and won’t end till the rains start. In the meantime, we’ll keep at it. Maybe now, we can remove the FS from this role of fire management.
    Give it to ODF around here.

    1. And have the taxpayers of Oregon – and only Oregon – assume responsibility for ALL costs, including fire suppression?

      1. It hardly matters when a fire is allowed to escape run and destroy. This country isn’t the Selway or the Bob. A Kalamiopsis start is local to many communities. An easily read history of blowup and escapes. Our biggest obstacles are locked FS roads, Regional management that puts priority on “natural” fire and its spread and the no harvest policies.
        I reckon even a million spent to keep fire in the Kalamiopsis before escape is a better deal than what will be spent now. A fire along I-5 last week, ODF jurisdiction, was just hammered to keep it contained. FS doesn’t hammer anything anymore.

        1. While many things can be argued, there’s no debating that many firefighters are in harms way protecting strangers’ assets, as their call to duty in protecting and serving. That means firefighters’ family summer vacations can fall apart (or go without daddy), kids waiting to show their animals at fair suddenly turn around to realize dad just had to make a bee-line exit due to a fire “somewhere” and won’t see them show, spouses at home are piecing things together to make due while praying earnestly each night that their loved one be kept safe, those loved ones are working under strenuous conditions physically, mentally, emotionally for days and days then spending another night sleeping on a cot before yet another day of long hours while praying everything at home holds together. I’m thankful to have a husband who responds to his call to duty to serve and protect. I know this was his choice to assume his calling. I also know that people can say and do things under emotional and stressful circumstances which make it appear as if the ones working the hardest aren’t appreciated. It’s ok, you’re still safe, because their job supersedes negative talk and the opinions of many who don’t know the whole story. They are bold, and they are working hard to pull things back together. Yes, there are people out there who play the system in every arena that exists. Still, I am grateful for the sacrifices many people in a family make in support of the family member(s) going to help strangers (earthly neighbors) in a time of ginormous need. May God bless and protect each one of us who is earnestly doing our part, be it large or small.

          1. everyone that ever went to work in the woods in Oregon hired out to be tough… suck it up, do the job, or go back to town and sell shoes…

  19. With so many fires burning in the northwest, that is likely putting a strain on resources available to fight them. This is my first year retired after 27 years of fighting wild land fire and I imagine it is very difficult to find resources to respond to new starts right now. A fire in the wilderness is going to take time to get to, and with the conditions and terrain problems there is almost no way anyone could have hit this fire head on while it was still 1/4 acre. Retardant planes ? Sure, but which critical fire would you divert them from? We have to prioritize. Life first, then property/houses then value. A wilderness fire is not high on that list. They are doing what they can do to safely stop the fire before it nears the residential areas. And yes we have to consider things like Yarnell, and Storm King and thats why we dont go running out in front of a highly unpredictable fire. Fire can still catch you when it seems small and insignificant. When its a raging monster, it will hunt you like prey. Which is often all you can do at that point.Pray.

    1. a single tanker run on that 1/4 acre fire would have made a monumental difference, even if it were only water………. what MUST change is the Management of the FS, the stupid rules that allow a fire to sit for weeks and then cost hundreds of millions of dollars of property, expense and then some lives too if we are not careful….. it is the management that must be held to account..

  20. Little mention has been made regarding meteorological conditions leading up to the first full day after start let alone for whatever the duration of the fire will be. Professional meteorologists come into play for almost every wildfire. If in no other way, for Spot Forecasts. I prefer to believe that any meteorologist playing a role on this fire is familiar with the BROOKINGS EFFECT (yes, that’s legit … look it up) or at least the factors/parameters that contribute to such wind events. There is mention of “Chetco winds” under Weather Concerns on Inciweb. As such, I don’t think it is requisite that USFS or any agency explain why or how something is going down.

    Safety First! It’s pretty much the mantra of anybody that doesn’t want to get screwed in some way. The potential for even a survivable burnover or run for your life scenario is never out of the question in wildland fire fighting. LR

  21. Fires come and go people do not. The local population has to deal with conditions and policies. The fire fighters risk their lives to do the same. I have family on the line what do policy makers risk. Civilians can evacuate and may loose property all replaceable. Firefighters will make a stand to protect personal property. Policy makers will make a stand to protect their ideas or their ass. What is the best policy no retardant in a wilderness area. Or 250,000 acres burned to sterility in a wild fire. Dozers and explosives cutting fire breaks that can be held. Or a policy of no motor vehicles to support or evacuate fire fighters . You know those people on the ground trying to hold the lines. There is a difference between conservation and preservation. Even the uneducated native Indians knew that and how to apply these things. No such thing as a wilderness for them controlled burns at the correct time 0f year. Each and every year just prior to the rainy season. None of them had formal educations or degrees or titles yet they got it done. There is nothing so stupid as an educated person once you get off the subject they were educated on. Ignorance can be cured, we all are just on different subjects. If I share my knowledge with you of that which I know first hand. You are no longer ignorant on that subject. An education or degree is not a substitute for good sense. If I tell you the native Indians knew how to conserve and protect the world around them. You would say probably say (YEAH BUT…… enter blather here) if you consider yourself smart. If that hurt your feelings you are an idiot and stupid goes all the way to the bone. If you said really how did they do that you are ignorant not stupid. Ignorance can be overcome stupid is of a curse that keeps on giving. The bad thing is if you are the average IQ when it comes to being stupid. Then half the population is even dumber than you. Genius has limitations but stupidity knows no bounds a quote from Albert of E= Mc squared fame. If you did not get that never mind it will not matter. Take away the wilderness designation everywhere period. Change the policies by any means necessary. Give the firefighters a chance to do what they do. Without undue risk of life and limb and lungs. Nothing is sacred that needs to be PRESERVED except life. Those of you that get this do something even if it is wrong. It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness. Quit your bitchin and light a candle. If the idiots are in office vote them out. If you do not like the policies change them . If you run into an IDIOT or hear YEAH BUT…….. walk away. Do not argue with them they will take you down to their level. Take care out there holding the line.

  22. Now we have had 3 chances to get the fires in this wilderness right. Wait – Watch – Plan. The fire that didn’t need to happen. This july 28th 2017 article foretells the tale. “Chetco Bar Fire continues its slow burn”. (read link below) No one can convince me that this couldn’t have been put out early on. Also, Maximum suppression is a misleading and disingenuous term. The general public believes that term to mean “they” are putting the fire out. It does not, “they” are surrounding the fire in hopes the rains will put it out in time.”Put the fire” out is explicit and final. Management missed the opportunity. Shameful!
    http://www.currypilot.com/news/5480944-151/chetco-bar-fire-continues-its-slow-burn

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