Dozens of homes burned in southern Oregon

The Golden Fire north of Bonanza, Oregon was estimated this afternoon at 2,052 acres with about 9 percent containment, after it burned 43 homes and 43 outbuildings during its initial runs. The incident management team — jointly staffed by the Oregon Department of Forestry and the State Fire Marshal’s Office — said 440 firefighters were working on the fire.

Fire behavior’s been active with wind-driven runs, but crews are now mostly holding the fire, which is burning in short grass, timber, and dry brush. High temperatures and low RH are expected to persist for at least the coming 48 hours, with winds picking up in the afternoons; incident managers are concerned that a wind switch from the north later this week could test the fire’s containment lines.

The Golden Fire is about 11 miles north of Bonanza, Oregon.

Golden Fire map

Temperatures in the 90s with wind gusts up to 20 mph contributed to extreme fire behavior during initial attack. The fire spread rapidly in dry fuels and most of the destroyed homes were lost during the fire’s initial run on July 22. Since then downed powerlines, burned snags, and road conditions have limited crews’ access to portions of the fire. Resources with the State Fire Marshal’s Office are working on hotspots and mop-up around structures to protect additional homes.

Community meeting: Golden Fire Unified Command will host an outdoor information meeting this evening at 7 p.m. at the Bonanza School on Mission Street. Cooperating agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, BLM and Klamath County; no seating is available and residents are asked to bring lawn chairs. Details and more information on the fire are available from

Bonanza School
Bonanza School, 31601 Mission Street, Bonanza, Oregon.

Despite near-Red-Flag conditions, crews the last couple days were able to strengthen lines around the fire and take down snags and hazard trees around the perimeter. A fiber-optic cable for major portions of Klamath and Lake counties was severed by the fire, causing loss of 911 and Lakeview Interagency Fire Center dispatch operations, along with Lakeview hospital, pharmacy, county-wide internet, and phone service. Oregon Governor Tina Kotek invoked the Conflagration Act on July 22, boosting available resources from out of the area.

KDRV-TV reported that the number of destroyed homes is expected to rise as assessment teams are able to safely access those parts of the fire.

“Our hearts go out to the Bonanza community and those affected by the Golden Fire,” said Matt Howard, incident commander with ODF Team 2. “We grieve with the community and your loss. Our goal on this fire has been, and will continue to be, to contain this fire to minimize its impact. Our job now is to fully suppress this fire so the recovery process can begin. That is our commitment to you.”

KOIN-TV reported that FEMA announced yesterday it had authorized federal funding after determining destruction from the fire would constitute a “major disaster.”

The fire started Saturday on Bly Mountain, about 18 miles east of Klamath Falls.

Golden Fire map

The American Red Cross and the Klamath County Emergency Response Team have set up a shelter at Bonanza High School. The fire damaged fiber-optic communication lines from Klamath County to Lake County. At the time of the state’s FEMA request, the fire threatened homes around Bly Mountain and the communities of Beatty, Bonanza, and Dairy along with Highway 140 and Bonneville Power Administration transmission lines.

Oregon gears up for 2023

Fire season is already under way in Oregon, with some small fires burning in the southwest part of the state, and state and federal officials are talking about options for funding firefighting efforts.

On May 17, Governor Tina Kotek announced she was adding over $200 million in funding for the state’s wildfire protection system to her budget request to the state legislature. “We need to continue to support things that have worked,” Kotek said in a press conference covered by KEZI-TV. “We need another $207 million to continue our advancements in wildfire protection, in both resilience and protection and response, and I would hope legislators would support that.”

ODF Fire
Oregon Dept. Forestry

In Washington, D.C., Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are working on legislation to create national recreation areas across the state. That distinction would require wildfire prevention strategies in the region. “The bill requires the Bureau of Land Management to take preemptive steps to reduce wildfire risks in the new recreation areas,” Wyden said at a Senate committee hearing, “including the construction of new roads to implement fire risk reduction plans and for public safety.”

Fire departments and districts have also received additional funding for firefighters, engines, and risk reduction programs. Much of that funding comes from 2021’s Senate Bill 762.

“Senate Bill 762 was a major investment in in fighting wildfire in Oregon, and it was a huge help for not only the Oregon Department of Forestry but other wildfire agencies in the state,” said Jessica Prakke, PAO with the Oregon Department of Forestry. The legislation provided $220 million to agencies to modernize and improve wildfire preparedness, response, and resiliency. “It was a huge investment in protecting Oregon from wildfire and it has done an immense amount of good across the state,” she said.

She said the funding also expanded the state’s network of wildfire detection cameras. One such camera caught a fire caused by a lightning strike in Lane County. On the night of May 15 a camera alerted ODF staff to smoke in between Sharps Creek and Mosby. A staffer monitoring the cameras dispatched fire crews to the site, and they had the fire under control within three hours. Prakke said there are now nearly 100 cameras at 60 sites across the state. The system also uses a mapping system to help pinpoint smokes for dispatchers and first responders.

Prevention is the key for a successful season, said Prakke. “The best way to stop wildfire is for people to keep wildfire prevention at the top of their mind,” she said. “About 70 percent of all wildfire in Oregon is human-caused, and so the less that we can contribute to wildfire on our parts, the less our resources are strained to fight other causes of wildfire.”