Fires in Oregon draw resources from California and evacuate residents

The Lookout Fire just north of McKenzie Bridge had burned 2,720 acres by Tuesday and was at zero percent containment. At an online briefing, Northwest Team 6 IC Tyson Albrecht said they are working with crews and aircraft to build line along a logging road. As of August 16, the fire was at 3,710 acres. KEZI-TV reported that the small mountain communities along the McKenzie River are struggling with more of the Lookout Fire’s smoke drifting across the region.

Lookout Fire at night
Lookout Fire at night August 13, inciweb photo

Smoke grounded aircraft yesterday and hotshots and structural strike teams from out of the area worked on protecting houses and powerlines. Doug Epperson with IMT 6 said they’re trying to keep the highway open for as long as possible.

“They started last night with some back burning that will continue today to remove fuels between where the fire is,” Epperson said. “We are doing everything so we can keep that highway open … our goal is to not have to close it.”

Around 400 personnel are working on the fire, with another 60 to 80 personnel joining each day.

smoke visible from Takatee Golf Course
Smoke visible from Tokatee Golf Course on August 13, inciweb photo

The fire grew quickly on Sunday, according to an OPB report, and prompted evacuations for residents north of Highway 126 near McKenzie Bridge.

There is a Red Cross shelter at Lowell High School; the IMT has scheduled a community meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at McKenzie High School in Vida.

Also east of Eugene, the Bedrock Fire on Monday was shaded by heavy smoke, lowering temperatures slightly and moderating fire behavior. Helicopters on the Bedrock were also grounded.

The Bedrock Fire is at 26,154 acres with about 20 percent containment. Crews have been holding the fire within containment lines on the northern, eastern, and southern portions of the fire, which has nearly 1100 personnel assigned. The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office has assigned 8 task forces for interface structural protection, and OSFM resources were joined by a California Office of Emergency Services (Cal-OES) task force yesterday. They’re doing surface prep, structure triage, and overnight patrols. Crews also worked on sprinkler installations and vegetation clearing on the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest compound.

Evacuation Centers: There is an evacuation center for people and small pets at Lowell High School for evacuees from both the Bedrock and Lookout fires. A large animal shelter is setting up at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene.

There is a current Level 3 (GO!) evacuation ordered for:

        • Taylor Road
        • North Bank Road
        • Areas north of Hwy 126 between Blue River Reservoir Road and Drury Lane
        • Mona Campground
        • Lookout Campground
        • HJ Andrews Experimental Forest headquarters

Firefighters are building line along the western edge of the fire, clearing and improving roads, and putting in dozer line. KPIC-TV reported that on Tuesday, firefighters were defending homes in Big Fall Creek.

sawyer on the Bedrock
Sawyer on the Bedrock Fire, inciweb photo

The fire started near Bedrock Campground on the Middle Fork Ranger District of the Willamette NF on July 22. Unusually dry fuels, steep slopes, and gusty winds contributed to rapid fire growth.

Northwest IMT 13 assumed management on July 25. On August 6, Northwest IMT 12 transitioned in, then on August 7 the IMT 12 also took over management of the Salmon Fire near Oakridge.

Oregon fires 0816
Oregon fires 0816

The IMT has scheduled a community meeting for the Bedrock and Salmon Fires tomorrow, August 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pleasant Hill School Community Center.

Night burn on the Bedrock
Firefighters on a tactical firing operation at night. Inciweb photo. They are watching for spot fires across the fireline.

The Salmon Fire is just 135 acres and about 80 percent contained. Firefighters are patrolling the perimeter and the incident’s recently shown minimal fire behavior. Resources include 3 engines, 1 crew, 1 watertender, and aircraft shared from the Bedrock Fire.

UPDATE — ROAD CLOSURE: Meanwhile, part of Hwy 199 south of Cave Junction is closed; CALTRANS has closed U.S. 199 at the Oregon-California border.

Hwy 199 closure
Hwy 199 closure south of Cave Junction. Check for updates at

According to Oregon DOT, the closure is in response to wildfire activity in the area, and the estimated duration of the closure is unknown. No local detours are available.

The Head Fire on the Klamath National Forest is one of a couple dozen in the area recently ignited by lightning. “This has been a fire that has moved extremely quickly,” Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith told The Associated Press. “Just in a matter of a couple of minutes yesterday afternoon the fire grew from just 50 acres to nearly 1,500 acres.”

Direction Impacted: Both
Comments: Lone Mountain Rd is CLOSED to all but local traffic from US 199 to the California border because of a wildfire in the area.
Do not use Lone Mountain Rd as a detour for the US 199 closure.
Agency: Josephine County
Public Contact: Brent Atkinson  (503) 986-3977

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 thoughts on “Fires in Oregon draw resources from California and evacuate residents”

  1. Growing up here in Oregon, old timers talked of the “Tillamook” burns a very bad set of fires in the 1930’s.

    Seems like a rerun episode of total unplanned chaos again here in Oregon. Residents of Oakridge ask, “why is the forest service letting the fires burn”? Have we forgotten about the Tillamook Fires from the 1930’s? Same scenario-loggers started the fires, and they were human caused. Please ask your officials if they are familiar with these fires.

    Last year’s Cedar creek fire damaged one of the most Pristine Lakes in the Cascades. Waldo lake was considered the clearest and most unpolluted lake in the world. Not anymore, the fires burned in the area and the runoff has filled the lake with soot.

    Excerpt from Wikipedia- The Tillamook Burn was a series of forest fires in the Northern Oregon Coast Range of Oregon in the United States that destroyed a total area of 350,000 acres (140,000 hectares) of old growth timber in what is now known as the Tillamook State Forest. There were four wildfires in this series, which spanned the years of 1933–1951. By association, the name Tillamook Burn also refers to the location of these fires.

    *This event is an important part of Oregon’s history. *

    First fire (1933)

    The first fire started in a ravine at the headwaters of Gales Creek on August 14, 1933. The exact cause of the first fire is unknown; however, the common narrative states that as logging crews were wrapping up operations early due to fire hazard restrictions, a steel cable dragging a fallen Douglas fir rubbed against the dry bark of a wind-fallen snag. The snag burst into flame, and the wildfire that grew out of this burned 350,000 acres (140,000 ha) before it was extinguished by seasonal rains on September 5.[1] An oppressive, acrid smoke filled the neighboring valleys; ashes, and cinders, and the charred needles of trees fell in the streets of Tillamook; and debris from the fire reached ships 500 miles (800 km) at sea. A Civilian Conservation Corps member was the only known human casualty of fighting the fire.[1] The loss in processed lumber was estimated to have been $442.4 million in contemporary (1933) dollars—a serious loss not only to the timber industry at the time, but also to a nation struggling with the Great Depression. A massive salvage operation was immediately begun to harvest usable portions of the burned wilderness.

    The speed with which a forest fire can spread in heavy fuels under the most hazardous conditions is well illustrated by this fire. From August 14 at 1 p.m. until the early morning of August 24 the fire had burned about 40,320 acres (16,320 ha) and it appeared that it might be brought under control soon. Thus, for over 10 days it had burned at an average rate of about 3,840 acres (1,550 ha) a day. On August 24, the humidity dropped rapidly to 26 percent and hot gale force WINDS from the EAST sprang up. During the next 20 hours of August 24 and 25 the fire burned over an additional 268,800 acres (108,800 ha), or at a rate of 13,440 acres (5,440 ha) per hour along a 15-mile (24 km) front. The fire was stopped only by the fact that the wind ceased, and a thick, wet blanket of fog drifted in from the ocean.[2]

    We need to teach these commonly known lessons to the fire management officers and forest supervisors of Oregon. It seems they may not understand the damage fires do in Oregon; they may have moved here without that knowledge.

    Once a fire starts in this decadent forest it’s going to burn until the snow/rain flies, common knowledge here in Oregon.

    Oregon and Washington Fire officials should read this.

    The National Wildfire Coordinating Group definition of extreme fire behavior (EFB) indicates a level of fire behavior characteristics that ordinarily precludes methods of direct control action. One or more of the following is usually involved: high rate of spread, prolific crowning/spotting, presence of fire whirls, and strong convection column. Predictability is difficult because such fires often exercise some degree of influence on their environment and behave erratically, sometimes dangerously. Alternate terms include “blow up” and “fire storm.”
    Fire managers examining fires over the last 100 years have come to understand many of the factors necessary for EFB development. This work produced guidelines included in current firefighter training, which presents the current methods of predicting EFB by using the crown fire model, which is based on the environmental influences of weather, fuels, and topography.

    Current training does not include the full extent of scientific understanding. Material in current training programs is also not the most recent scientific knowledge. National Fire Plan funds have sponsored newer research related to wind profiles’ influence on fire behavior, plume growth, crown fires, fire dynamics in live fuels, and conditions associated with vortex development. Of significant concern is that characteristic features of EFB depend on conditions undetectable on the ground, relying fundamentally on invisible properties such as wind shear or atmospheric stability.

    Obviously, no one completely understands all the factors contributing to EFB because of gaps in our knowledge. These gaps, as well as the limitations as to when various models or indices apply should be noted to avoid application where they are not appropriate or warranted. This synthesis will serve as a summary of existing extreme fire behavior knowledge for use by fire managers, firefighters, and fire researchers.

    The objective of this project is to synthesize existing EFB knowledge in a way that connects the weather, fuel, and topographic factors that contribute to development of EFB. This synthesis will focus on the state of the science but will also consider how that science is currently presented to the fire management community, including incident commanders, fire behavior analysts, incident meteorologists, National Weather Service office forecasters, and firefighters. It will seek to clearly delineate the known, the unknown, and areas of research with the greatest potential impact on firefighter protection.
    (Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers)
    Informally Refereed

    Authors: Paul A. Werth, Brian E. Potter, Craig B. Clements, Mark A. Finney, Scott L. Goodrick, Martin E. Alexander, Miguel G. Cruz, Jason A. Forthofer, Sara S. McAllister
    Year: 2011
    Type: General Technical Report
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-854. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 144 p.

What do you think?