Fire in central Oregon burns to almost 4000 acres

The Darlene 3 Fire just east of La Pine in central Oregon has been burning aggressively; by Thursday morning it had grown to 3,889 acres — up from 2,415 acres the day before.

Smoke over La Pine in central Oregon. Photo by Deschutes County Sheriff's office.
Smoke over La Pine homes in central Oregon. Photo by Deschutes County Sheriff’s office.

The fire is about 30 percent contained. KTVZ-TV reported that the cause remains under investigation.

The fire was human-caused — and federal, state, and county law enforcement agencies are involved in that investigation. Crews worked hard on initial attack Tuesday, building line off Reed Road to protect assets to the north.

Darlene 3 Fire -- photo by C.O. Fire Management Service
Darlene 3 Fire — photo by Central Oregon Fire Management Service

The Central Oregon Type 3 IMT is in unified command with the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) Red Team, in part because of the large number of threatened homes at the edge of town. Winds and high temperatures on Wednesday allowed the Darlene 3 Fire to create spotfires beyond the firelines, and it then burned east onto the Deschutes National Forest, where it merged into a couple of fuels-treatment burns previously created by the BLM and the USFS. Crews noted that those burns moderated fire behavior on this incident.

Darlene 3 Fire

On Wednesday night, crews finished containment lines and firing operations. As long as the temps and winds remain moderate, crews and dozers and engines will work on reinforcing firelines; 335 personnel are assigned, including 38 engines, 5 hand crews, 8 watertenders, and numerous dozers and aircraft.

Six task forces of structural firefighters are protecting homes and other buildings and working mop-up around homes and town infrastructure.

Deschutes County evacuation info is online at deschutes.org/emergency — and the Red Cross has  set up a shelter at La Pine High School (51633 Coach Road). The La Pine Activity Center (16450 Victory Way) is open for RVs to park and also has meals and N95 masks available. Rebecca Marshall with the Red Cross said they do not at this time need donations.

Air quality information can be found at aqi.oregon.gov or AirNow.gov — and residents can add the OregonAir app on their smartphones.

1-2-3 ... Ready, Set, Go!

The fire took off Tuesday afternoon and then grew rapidly, just a mile or so outside of the town of La Pine. A level 3 evacuation order — remember Level 1-2-3  =  Ready-Set-Go — is in effect on the east side of La Pine. There’s an evacuation map here.

Zach Urness with the Salem Statesman Journal reported that a Type 3 IMT  took over on Wednesday morning; on Tuesday, Gov. Tina Kotek invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act. “This allows us to send the full power of the Oregon fire services to protect life and property,” said Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple. There are six task forces of structural firefighters defending local buildings that are threatened on the east edge of town. The fire is threatening nearly 1200 structures, according to Deschutes County Sheriff Sergeant Nathan Garibay

Earth’s most extreme wildfires are growing more intense and frequent

A recent study published in the Nature Ecology and Evolution scientific journal broke down 21 years of satellite data to be the next in line to reveal a burning truth: extreme wildfire events are becoming more frequent and intense.

The study, led by researchers at Australia’s University of Tasmania, found that six of the past seven years have been among the most extreme wildfire years on record. The study also found the frequency of extreme wildfires  more than doubled between 2003 and 2023.

“This study provides concrete evidence of a worrying trend,” lead researcher Dr. Calum Cunningham told the university. “The intensity and frequency of these bushfires are increasing at an alarming rate, directly linked to the escalating effects of climate change.”

The research also confirmed that, while the total area burned is on the decline, fire behavior on the whole has worsened in several regions, including boreal and temperate conifer biomes in North America and Russia. Hotspots were also recorded in Australia, southern Africa, Mediterranean Europe, and South America. The burning of said biomes would reportedly hold dire implications for carbon storage, human exposure to wildfire, and significant ecological damage.

“The impact of these extreme events is devastating, not only for natural ecosystems but also for human populations,” Cunningham said. “These fires release significant carbon emissions, threatening to create a vicious cycle that further accelerates global warming.”

Australia's "Black Summer" bushfire season
Australia’s “Black Summer” bushfire season

Australia’s “Black Summer” fire season of 2019-2020 was named specifically for its unprecedented scale, intensity, and still-ongoing effects. The most recent “Black Summer” report on the bushfires focused on how they affected the nation’s tourism industry, specifically how previous reports underestimated the financial losses.

“Our novel research into the losses from the tourism shutdown resulting from Australia’s 2019-20 fires found that flowing on from direct impacts of AU $1.7 billion, indirect impacts along supply chains resulted in $2.8 billion in total output losses and $1.6 billion in reduced consumption,” the University of Sydney researchers’ report said. “We calculated significant spill-over costs, with total output losses being an increase of 61 percent on top of the direct damages identified.”

READ MORE: Australia’s ‘Black Summer’ bushfires impact on tourism still being uncovered

FIREWORKS: Just say no

Speaking of fireworks safety over the Independence Day holiday, James Duff with the City of Orinda, California tipped us off earlier this month to this outstanding little 2021 PSA from Lubbock, Texas. We are entertaining nominations for award-winning fireworks messaging, and there is a prize involved, so please nominate your “July 4th Hot PSA” from a fire agency, government agency, or NGO related to fireworks use and fire safety.

Write at least one sentence about who it is and where it is, add the link, and post it in the comments below.

Meanwhile, enjoy this little gem from Texas.

Upper Applegate Fire holding at 500 acres, drone grounded aircraft

Fire crews on southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate Fire have made excellent progress, holding the fire at an estimated 500 acres since it started on June 20 south of Ruch in the Applegate Valley. Burning on private, BLM, and USFS land on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the fire’s been 15 percent lined directly and about 70 percent with direct line — the Northwest Coordination Center reports the human-caused fire still holding  at about 40 percent containment. The unlined eastern edge of the fire is steep and rocky and has presented a challenge since the fire was engaged.

Early morning 06/21 Upper Applegate Fire, ODF photo
Early morning 06/21 Upper Applegate Fire, ODF photo

Despite hot and windy conditions, three federal large airtankers and one very large airtanker were flying out of Medford to keep the fire within its footprint. T-01 dropped on the Upper Applegate on Thursday, and both T-131 and 132 flew the fire on Friday. From McClellan on Friday, both T-103 and T-910 dropped on the fire.

KDRV-TV reported that an illegal drone was seen flying over the Upper Applegate Fire on Friday night, and ODF had to shut down aircraft for the last hour of the day. Drones can cause fatal accidents, and flying one in restricted airspace over or near a fire will ground planes and helicopters on the fire. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office searched late into the evening for the drone and its pilot but were unable to locate them. If you have information, please call the JCSO Tip Line at (541)774-8333.

Upper Applegate Fire June 23, 2024
Upper Applegate Fire June 23, 2024

More than 200 personnel are now assigned to the fire, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), including 27 overhead, seven 20-person crews, three engines, two watertenders, three bulldozers, six tree fallers, and a Rapid Extraction Mobile Support Team (REMS). The terrain on this fire has posed numerous safety issues, from the steep slope to hazard  trees and rolling rocks.

Crews managed firing operations on the southern portion of the fire, which is near to houses across the road, connecting up firefighters’ line with a bulldozer line that was already in place.

Air Quality Index 07:22 06/22/2024
Air Quality Index 07:22 06/22/2024

Fire managers expect temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s with a slight wind in the afternoon. A Type 1 helicopter, along with a Type 3 and two Type 2 helicopters, are assigned exclusively to this incident, and airtankers will be ordered as needed. Portions of the fire area are affected by conifer mortality with large patches of dead Douglas-fir trees. Fallers have been  working to remove these trees, allowing firefighters in closer to the fire’s edge.

Applegate map
Resources from across Oregon have been dispatched to this fire, including  ODF’s Incident Management Team 2. KEZI-TV reported that crews with McKenzie Fire and Rescue, Junction City Fire District, Coburg Fire District, South Lane County Fire and Rescue, Lane Fire Authority, Pleasant Hill Goshen Fire and Rescue, and Mohawk Valley Fire District are on the fire, and a task force was mobilized out of Polk County. The Oregon State Fire Marshal deployed two strike teams, along with resources from the BLM, USFS, and Applegate Valley Fire District.
Missing Miles photos of the Upper Applegate Fire.
Missing Miles photos of the Upper Applegate Fire.
More photos and video [HERE] by The Missing Miles.

Siberian wildfire smoke increases could cause thousands of deaths, billions in costs for East Asia

A team from Japan’s Hokkaido University’s research study recently uncovered worrying findings for residents across East Asia. The team looked into the increasing frequency of wildfires in Siberia, and the growing threat of smoke that Japan and other areas downwind of Siberia are forced to breathe.

Previous studies have confirmed wildfires are becoming more common in Arctic biomes across the globe, including Siberia. A 2022 USFS study found wildfires in Siberia tripled from the 2001 – 2010 period to the 2011 – 2020 period. The area burned by wildfires in Siberia also increased by a factor of 2.6 during the same period.

Siberian smoke

“We found that annual fire frequency and the extent of burnt areas were related to various combinations of seasonal air temperature, precipitation, ground moisture, and lightning frequency,” the 2022 study said. “Increased wildfire and loss of permafrost may threaten ongoing settlement and industrialization, particularly for western Siberia.”

But the wildfires have implications for residents in numerous areas other than Siberia. The Hokkaido University researchers used global climate simulation models to evaluate how the expected increase in wildfires, and wildfire smoke, will affect people downwind of Siberia.

The researchers found smoke from Siberia’s wildfires releases aerosols, or air pollution particles that reflect sunlight away from the earth’s surface, which greatly degrades air quality, leading to a drastic increase in air pollution, possibly thousands of deaths, and billions of dollars in economic losses, including upwards of:

        • 70,000 deaths and $80 billion in losses across China
        • 32,000 deaths and $100 billion in losses in Japan
        • 4,000 deaths and $20 billion in losses in South Korea

Siberian smoke study

“Despite the limitations of our study, our findings provide readers with a critical message on the effect of increased particulate matter caused by Siberian wildfires on climate and air quality as well as mortality and the economy under present and future atmospheric conditions,” the researchers said. “Future studies must aim to prevent air pollution emissions from Siberian wildfires and take further preventive measures in the future under ongoing and future climate changes.”

Read the full study here.

A team from Japan’s Hokkaido University’s research study recently uncovered worrying findings for residents across East Asia. The team looked into the increasing frequency of wildfires in Siberia, and the growing threat of smoke that Japan and other areas downwind of Siberia are forced to breathe.

South Fork Fire evacuates Ruidoso

Emergency officials ordered residents of Ruidoso  to evacuate last Monday the 17th, and to do it immediately, ahead of a fast-moving wildfire in southern New Mexico.

UPDATE:  RUIDOSO, N.M. -- The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information about those responsible for starting two New Mexico wildfires that killed two people and destroyed hundreds of homes in the past week. The agency seeks information in connection with the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire  near Ruidoso. The South Fork Fire was 26 percent contained on Saturday and the Salt Fire  was just 7 percent contained on Saturday morning; full containment's not expected till July 15.

“GO NOW: Do not attempt to gather belongings or protect your home. Evacuate immediately.” Residents of the village of Ruidoso got this message about 7 p.m. from local officials if they were online. CBS News reported that the Public Service Company of New Mexico shut off power to about 2000 customers in the town — at the request of fire managers — when the fire burned to nearly 1300 acres.

KRQE-TV reported that hot ash was falling in nearby community of Alto.

By Tuesday officials said the fire was over 13,900 acres and was zero percent contained. The fire’s threatening multiple structures, officials said, and numerous buildings had been lost. Highways are closed and traffic’s being re-routed to Roswell, where hospitals were trying to admit as many patients as possible as they were moved from the hospital in Ruidoso.

The South Fork Fire started Monday on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, where President Thora Walsh Padilla declared a state of emergency. It’s burning on tribal land and USFS land around Ruidoso.

Mescalero Apache Tribe

A second fire, the 4880-acre Salt Fire, also was burning with zero containment on the reservation southwest of Ruidoso. Officials have closed Highway 70 from Botella Road to Highway 244 and residents east of Botella Road are evacuating.

Residents at Chatto Ridge are on “ready” status and Apache Summit is being evacuated. The Tribe is receiving reports of multiple additional fires on the Reservation. An evacuation center at Inn of the Mountain Gods Convention Center is available for residents — tribal members or not — at the Mescalero Community Center Gymnasium, and livestock can be held at the Mescalero Rodeo Grounds. Call (575)973-1394 if you need help with hauling your livestock.

::: BY THE WAY, legend has it that the Mescalero Red Hats, alongBaby Smokey with the Zuni and Santo Domingo fire crews, were the ones who discovered a bear cub with burnt paws in 1950 on the Capitan Gap Fire. That bear would go on to become Smokey Bear, the internationally recognized symbol of the nation’s fire prevention efforts.

 

Pamela L Bonner photo
Pamela L Bonner photo

NOTE FROM Mt. Taylor IHC
Mt Taylor IHC