Briefing on five major wildfires in Oregon

Middle Fork, Rough Patch, Jack, Devils Knob, & Bull

4:18 p.m. Sept. 6, 2021

Map of Oregon Fires Sept. 6, 2021
Map of Oregon Fires Sept. 6, 2021.

There are five major wildfires or complexes of wildfires in western Oregon. None of them are raging, but there is not much standing in their way to to take off if a wind event comes over the horizon. The exception is the Jack Fire which is pretty quiet and only staffed by five personnel.

As you can see in the satellite photo below which shows approximately the same area as in the map above, an inversion is trapping smoke on the four southern-most blazes. This indicates that there is not much wind on the fire. The inversion and smoke partially block convection above the fire and solar heating of the vegetation, slowing the spread.

Satellite photo, Oregon Fires, 1:56 p.m. PDT Sept, 6, 2021
Satellite photo, Oregon Fires, 1:56 p.m. PDT Sept, 6, 2021.

Starting from the north, here are a few details about these five fires. The term “complex” means there is more than one fire being managed by the same Incident Management Team.

Bull Complex, 16,724 acres, Mt. Hood National Forest, 571 personnel. It is 18 miles east-northeast of Mill City. Following a round of lightning in the afternoon on August 2, four fires were identified on the south end of the Mt. Hood National Forest. Three, Janus, Kola, and Ridge Fires, were in the southeast corner of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in the Janus Butte area. The fourth fire, Round Lake, was east of the wilderness. And a fifth, Ogre Creek Fire, was detected August 3 in the Round Lake area. By August 18 they had all merged. The fire is currently being managed by Northern Rockies Type 2 Team #4.

It is actively spreading to the west in Welcome, Mother Lode, Battle, and Elk Lake Creek drainages, and to the north along the ridges between Dickey Creek and the Collawash River.

Bull Complex of fires
Bull Complex of fires, Rhododendron Ridge, OR, Sept. 2, 2021 Inciweb.

Middle Fork Complex, 24,930 acres, Willamette NF, 2 fires, 686 personnel. It is 23 miles southeast of Eugene and is being managed by the Pacific Northwest Team 6, a Type 2 Team which says that many snags, steep terrain, and smoky conditions make direct attack unsafe. They are planning burning operations on the Gales Fire and are staffing both night and day shifts to take advantage of weather which is slowing the spread. Firefighters are preparing for heightened fire behavior on Tuesday afternoon.

On the Kwis Fire, an engine crew continues to break up and put out all remaining burning material near the fire perimeter. “Every once in a while, we find a stump hole burning,” said Field Operations Chief Ryan Sullivan.

Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex, OR
Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 16, 2021, InciWeb.

Rough Patch Complex, 41,185 acres, Umpqua NF, 4 fires, 714 personnel. It is 18 miles southwest of Oakridge and started July 29 from 20-plus lightning ignitions. Several more fires were later added to the complex including the Jack Fire when another storm moved through August 1, bringing the total to 42. On August 28th Northern Rockies Team 1 (Type 1 IMT) assumed command.  The Complex now consists of four fires: Chaos, Little Bend, Buckhead, and Near Minky, all being managed under a full suppression strategy. Firing operations on all four fires are either being planned, prepped, or are underway.

Jack Fire, 23,990 acres (grew by 4 acres in 24 hours), Umpqua NF,  5 personnel. It is 31 miles east of Roseburg. They are calling it full suppression but report that only 55 percent of the perimeter is contained.

Devils Knob Complex, 46,596 acres, Umpqua NF, 2 fires, 711 personnel. It is 20 miles northeast of Azalea. Initially it was a group of 43 fires mostly on the Tiller Ranger District that started from lightning on July 29 and August 1. All fires in the Complex are being managed under a full suppression strategy. On September 6, the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command.

The two largest fires still spreading are the Smith and Big Hamlin Fires. The Smith is primarily north of the South Umpqua River, while the Big Hamlin is south of the river. Of the two the Smith Fire is the most active. Firing operations are underway on these two fires. The other fires are being monitored and held.

Firefighter Devils Knob Complex of fires
Firefighter on the Devils Knob Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 13, 2021, InciWeb.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

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.

13 thoughts on “Briefing on five major wildfires in Oregon”

  1. Why were there 8 fire fighting aircraft (including 2 DC10’s out of Sacramento) circling like crazy over treeless Pumice Stone Mt in the middle of nowhere about 10 miles east of Tennant, OR this Mon pm?

    1. Hi Ted and Bill,,

      Ted, BTOO MUCH INFORMATION!!! “(including 2 DC10’s out of Sacramento)” I doubt if anyone observing this in the Monday PM at this location could have gotten access to this information by 9/6/2021 at 8:41pm.

      Bill, GREAT INFORMATION AND EASY TO UNDERSTAND!!! Pictures are worth a thousand words.

      Have a good day, Jerry

      1. I watched the action on Flightradar ( off and on for several hours. I hope you are not trying to call me a liar. Both DC10’s flew over my town of Paradise at the same time, one going north and one going south. I suggest you become familiar with FlightRadar if you don’t understand.

        1. Hi Ted, As you advised I went to your link. So I understand how you might observed via this link. What you did not describe is what Wildfire to which these 8 fire fighting aircraft might have been actively involved.

          I live in Oregon so I was interested in where you were observing these circling planes but on two quite detailed road atlases, I could not find Tangent OR. However, now I found Paradise OR and know it is a considerable distance from Sacramento CA. Just as you know that these planes circling treeless Pumice Stone Mt didn’t make sense; flying DC-10’s out of Sacramento doesn’t make sense unless these DC-10’s are flying out of some nearby airport at which a DC-10 with a full load of water plus could takeoff.

          So, I could speculation these planes were circling in a ‘holding pattern’ before landing or before dropping the fire retardant on the flames of a Wildfire. But I certainly do not know what was going on 300-400 miles from where I live. Have a good day, jerry

            1. Ted is somehow confusing Tangent Oregon with Tennant California. There’s also Tiller, Oregon, which has fire near it, and Talent, Oregon, which had a bigass fire last year. And yes, Ted, there are fire aircraft near that location today. Not in Oregon.

            2. Hi Jerry,
              Oops. I made a typo. Pumice Stone Mountain is 10 miles east Tennant, CA, not OR. Sorry about that. I am just as mystified as you are. There was no fire (at least not reported) in the area they were circling . When you click on the plane on the map in FlightRadar it shows the info about the plane as well as its track history. Lots of loops for each one of them, except just one for each of the Cal Fire DC-10s. I should have done a screen capture for documentation. And yes the DC10s were definitely from Sacramento. They flew over my house in Paradise, CA. I heard them. The one going north was at 12,500 ft and the one going south was directly above it at 13,000 ft! They probably waved to each other. The circling activity remains a mystery. Thanks for catching the spelling error.

        2. Since you like websites so much (and Jerry is still learning how to internet without YELLING) the fire activity layer is quite helpful for showing up to date hotspot information (it also has an aircraft layer but flightradar is superior).

          The Antelope Fire is currently quite active in the dense forest (use the satellite imagery layers) to the west of the barren Pumice Stone Mt, and probably the reason there were so many aerial assets in the area.

          Here is a helpful video on how to use the caltopo fire layers:

    2. Ted,
      from the inciweb page on the Antelope Fire:
      Breach in fireline at Div T, Pumice Mt. Area. Efforts to establish new control line will be challenging in rough terrain. If containment lines are not successful the fire could reach Medicine Lake community. Evacuations in Medicine Lake have been initiated.
      There’s a community meeting online at 6 pm tomorrow.


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