Firefighters are working on a wildfire that took off when sudden wind gusts fanned a prescribed burn that was considered contained, the U.S. Forest Service reported late Tuesday night. KEZI-TV reported that a prescribed burn was under way near the community of McKenzie Bridge, upstream from Eugene, Oregon, on the McKenzie River, on May 30. Though the prescribed burn was started when weather was within planned parameters, gusty winds started two spot fires near the 65-acre burn area.
The USFS officially declared the escaped burn a wildfire — called the W-470 Fire — and said that as of the morning of May 31 the total burn area was about 120 acres.
Fire crews went out on the night of May 30 to try to contain the fire. The USFS said 34 firefighters worked overnight according to pre-existing contingency plans, and more resources were on the way.
KLCC radio reported that unexpected gusty winds pushed the burn outside the prescribed area. The fire is about two miles northeast of the McKenzie River ranger station in eastern Lane County.
The Willamette National Forest reported that the burn was planned to reduce fuels in a thinned stand, but the escaped fire burned onto National Forest land outside of the burn unit’s perimeter. The burn area is north of Highway 126 where FS Roads 26-204 and 26-206 split near Frissell Trail.
Cooler temperatures are moderating fire activity. “Our highest priority is to suppress fire in the area adjacent to the burn unit,” said Dave Warnack, Willamette Forest Supervisor. Residents of the area who remember the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire are expressing frustration with the USFS for allowing the prescribed burn to escape.