Report of “extreme spotting” 6 miles ahead of Klondike Fire

(Originally published at 5:34 a.m. PDT October 17, 2018)

Typically by mid-October firefighting agencies in Oregon have downsized their ranks of seasonal firefighters and are preparing to enter winter mode. But the Klondike Fire west of Grants Pass, after being dormant for weeks, exploded back to life on October 14 and in a big way. Within a matter of hours it burned an additional 4,968 acres to bring the total up to 172,287 acres.

According to an article in the Mail Tribune it was transporting burning embers into the atmosphere that started fires six miles out ahead of the flaming front:

“Extreme spotting” propelled fine embers up to six miles ahead of the main fire, dropping the live ash right between firefighters’ tents and close to people’s homes.

“We even had to move our own fire camp,”  [information officer Kale] Casey said.

The map below shows spot fires detected by an infrared mapping flight.

map Klondike Fire
The red line on the map was the perimeter of the Klondike Fire at 9 p.m. October 15, 2018. The white line shows where the perimeter was before the October 14-15 additional growth. Click to enlarge.

The Incident Management Team posted an update on Tuesday October 16:

Fire personnel focused all efforts to ensure that Sunday’s wind driven spot fires did not damage any of the homes in the Oak Flats, Spud Road and Agness area. Fire managers estimate that the weekend wind event resulted in approximately 5,000 acres of new growth to the west of the primary containment lines. Level 3 evacuations remain in effect for these areas while fire crews and engines work to construct and link together new and existing containment lines.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s five structural task forces that arrived yesterday have split into day and night shifts to ensure that all homes under evacuation are protected. These resources include twenty engines and five water tenders with firefighters from thirty-three different fire agencies from across the state.

Fire behavior moderated significantly yesterday as the 30 mph winds over the weekend diminished significantly, allowing fire firefighters to attack spot fires directly. Containing the remaining spot fires east and west of the Illinois River and west of the 3577 Road is the primary objective for all fire personnel.

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+

3 thoughts on “Report of “extreme spotting” 6 miles ahead of Klondike Fire”

  1. This is another episode in the Great Kalmiopsis Burn, which started in 1987 with the Silver Fire, then the half million acre Biscuit in 2002, and two “small” fires in 2015 – the
    Buckskin – only 4500 acres and the Collier Butte – about the same. Then in 2017 the Chetco Bar – 191,080 acres, and this year the Taylor/Klondike – 172,000 and still running with the wind in October! You would think there wasn’t much left to burn, but there are the snags, big down logs and new brush fields left over from the earlier events.
    One might think it was time to try something different!

    1. What would you suggest if you were going to try something different. If the growth cycle of the trees is 20 years then the area would have had plenty of time to regrow from 1987 or 2002 or 2015. Underbrush grows much quicker to create plenty of fuel from even last year. Also fires normally do not burn clean, meaning there are usually large areas withing the fire perimeter that do not burn which helps with the regeneration of the forest and helps prevent erosion.
      Sometimes well meaning conservationists can create additional problems by preventing state and federal agencies taking measures as controlled burns to lessen the vegetation and thus reduce the devastation that futures might cause.

  2. Your comment about “well meaning conservationists” is a bit charitable, I think. The groups in this area are very persistent in slowing or stopping Federal agencies from doing their timber management job. This includes salvage of fire or insect killed trees – which results in very dangerous firefighting from snags and large fuel buildup. On Federal lands this usually results in offset firelines and burnouts.
    Naturally this makes for bigger fires with longer perimeters and larger crews, more equipment
    ( if they are allowed to use it), and more air. A basic problem is the reduced access by limited
    road building or road closures. This is especially noticeable in wilderness areas. Lightning fires in the Kalmiopsis have caused the sequence of fires I cited earlier. This is the case in many wilderness area fires. If a fire gets well started, the odds on stopping it small are not good.

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