Smoke from Milepost 97 Fire spreads in Southern Oregon and Northern California

(UPDATED at 3:56 p.m. PDT July 27, 2019)

Below is an updated forecast for the distribution of smoke from the Milepost 97 Fire in Southwest Oregon. One difference from the previous version further down in this article is that not only is it proceeding further south approaching the San Francisco Bay Area, but some of the smoke will be spreading into southern Idaho. The forecast is for 6 p.m. PDT July 27, 2019.

forecast distribution of wildfire smoke
The forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 6 p.m. PDT July 27, 2019. Click to enlarge.

(Originally published at 7:15 a.m. PDT July 27, 2019)

smoke air quality Milepost 97 fire Oregon California
Map from Purple Air showing air quality at locations in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Cities and states identified in black by Wildfire Today.

Smoke from the 8,878-acre Milepost 97 fire near Canyonville, Oregon is affecting the air quality in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Some of the cities in Oregon affected are Grants Pass, Medford, and Ashland. And in California, Yreka, Weed, Mt. Shasta, and Redding.

Click here for more information about the Milepost 97 Fire near Canyonville, Oregon.

smoke air quality Milepost 97 fire Oregon California
California and Southern Oregon air quality at 6 a.m. PDT July 27, 2019, by AirNow.
smoke air quality Milepost 97 fire Oregon California
Forecast for the distribution of smoke from wildfires at 10 a.m. PDT July 27, 2019.

Milepost 97 Fire burns over 1,600 acres just south of Canyonville, Oregon

It started July 24, possibly from from a campfire

(Originally published at 1:09 p.m. PDT July 26, 2019)

3-D map Milepost 97 Fire Canyonville, Oregon
3-D map of the Milepost 97 Fire south of Canyonville, OR at 7:30 p.m. PT July 25, 2019. Looking northwest.

The Milepost 97 fire in southwest Oregon burned actively Thursday and Thursday night growing to 1,650 acres. The fire is one mile south of Canyonville on the west side of Interstate 5. (see map above)

It was reported Wednesday, July 24 at approximately 10:00 p.m. and is burning in steep, rocky terrain with limited access. Most of the fire is within an old fire scar from 1987. A preliminary investigation indicates it was started by a campfire.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Milepost 97 Fire, including the most current, click here.)

The area is managed by the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a Level 3 “Go” evacuation order at 7:20 Thursday night, which applied to approximately three residences in the 100 to 300 blocks of Ritchie Road.

map Milepost 97 Fire Canyonville, Oregon
Map of the Milepost 97 Fire south of Canyonville, OR at 7:30 p.m. PT July 25, 2019.

The Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team 3 (Incident Commander Smith) has been mobilized to assist the Douglas Forest Protective Association. The team is scheduled to assume command of the fire Friday evening.

Milepost 97 Fire
Milepost 97 Fire. Photo by
Douglas Forest Protective Association.

A year ago thunderstorms ignited more than 100 wildfires in Oregon

map fires oregon california
This natural-color satellite image was collected on July 18, 2018. Actively burning areas are outlined in red. NASA image courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project.

About this time last year on July 15 a lightning storm swept across Oregon that ignited more than 100 fires according to the U.S. Forest Service.

An article at News10 looks back on what it was like at that time. Below is an excerpt:

…Oregon Department of Forestry called in all resources possible. New fire starts popped up every two minutes for hours, according to [Chris] James, [Detection Center Lead at Oregon Department of Forestry].

[Marcus] Havinear, [a 10-year veteran firefighter with the Oregon Department of Forestry], started his shift early that Sunday morning. Typically firefighters in the thick of fire season will work 12-hour shifts and get replaced by fresh firefighters. This shift lasted 27 hours. Havinear did not leave his post until 11 a.m. the next day.

Inside the dispatch center for ODF, it was a similar story. Normally, five dispatchers rotate through calls, but when fire season hit last year everyone got called in for the agency.

“As you’re getting those calls, you’re trying to allocate your resources as best you can and order more resources as best you can as the calls keep coming in,” Teresa Burkhart, the lead dispatcher for ODF, said.

ODF personnel spotting smoke like James saw 56 different clouds of smoke on their cameras at the exact same time – something James has never seen before.

“92 smokes that we reported over that three day period,” James said. “31 of those were first detection by us.”

Three months later the Klondike fire was still active. During a major run in mid-October it spotted six miles ahead, dropping burning embers between firefighters’ tents in fire camp, forcing a relocation of the incident command post.

Communities in Oregon and Washington most threatened by wildfire identified

After assessing the exposure to wildfire of communities across the Pacific Northwest Region, Oregon and Washington, the 50 most-threatened communities in each state were identified.

In the broadest sense, wildfire exposure encompasses the likelihood of wildfire burning a given location on the landscape, and the potential intensity of a wildfire if one were to occur. For this assessment the researchers focused only on wildfire likelihood because the effect of fire intensity on home loss rate is not well studied, and because the inclusion of intensity for this and similar assessments did not influence the conclusions. Wildfire likelihood is measured by annual burn probability, a measure generated by comprehensive simulation of wildfire occurrence and spread (see section below on Wildfire hazard simulations).

Washington Oregon communities exposed wildfire

Oregon top 10 wildfire exposed communities
The 10 communities in Washington with greatest cumulative housing-unit exposure to wildfire. The “mean of exposed housing units” rank indicates the mean (typical) burn probability of housing units within each community.

Oregon top 10 wildfire exposed communities
The 10 communities in Oregon with greatest cumulative housing-unit exposure to wildfire. The
“mean of exposed housing units” rank indicates the mean (typical) burn probability of housing units within each community.

The research was commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service’s Northwest Region.

More details, including lists of the 50 most threatened communities in both Oregon and Washington, can be found here.

Photos from the Dowens 2 Fire in western Oregon

Dowens 2 Fire Oregon wildfire
Dowens 2 Fire. Oregon Department of Forestry photo by Marcus Kauffman.

Marcus Kauffman, a Public Information Officer with the Oregon Department of Forestry, sent us this excellent photo (above) that he took May 10 on the Dowens 2 Fire about 15 miles south of Eugene, Oregon. We looked for more information about blaze and found more very good photos on one of the ODF’s Facebook pages —  those images are below.

The fire started at 4 p.m. on May 10 and burned 76 acres east of Cottage Grove. The ODF led a response that included three helicopters, two dozers, more than 25 structural and wildland engines, and 130 personnel. The early season fire, burning in brush, logging slash and timber, destroyed one home. Rain on May 13 aided firefighters during mopup. It was declared contained on May 14, 2019.

Dowens 2 Fire Oregon wildfire
Dowens 2 Fire. A firefighter digs into burning duff. Oregon Department of Forestry photo.
Dowens 2 Fire Oregon wildfire
Dowens 2 Fire. Oregon Department of Forestry photo.
Dowens 2 Fire Oregon wildfire
Dowens 2 Fire near the Row River. Oregon Department of Forestry photo.

Two wildfire bills pending in D.C.

A Senator and a Representative in Oregon are pushing two bills that have been introduced in Congress that would affect wildland fire and forest management. One emphasized logging while the other is about mitigating hazardous fuels near communities.

Last week U.S. Rep. Greg Walden introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act,  which would:

  • Reduce environmental compliance restrictions on projects up to 10,000 acres to treat forest stands affected by insects and disease in order to reduce hazardous fuels and protect watersheds. The limit would expand to 30,000 acres for collaborative projects.
  • Expedite salvage logging after fires.
  • Require replanting 75 percent of burned areas within five years.
  • Increase logging on Oregon and California Railroad lands in Western Oregon.
  • Remove the prohibition on logging trees over 21 inches in diameter in Eastern Oregon.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is working to pass his Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act that stalled in the Senate last year. One of the main provisions is to appropriate $1 billion to the U.S. Forest Service for ramping up projects that would reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, including expanding the  U.S. Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. These projects would carry out hazardous fuels reduction activities on Forest Service lands in areas that are near at-risk communities, are high-value watersheds, or have very high wildfire potential. The goal is to create fire-adapted communities, restore and maintain resilient landscapes, and to achieve safe and effective fire response.

In another wildfire related issue, Senator Merkley said thanks to a $7 million appropriation from the federal government the Oregon National Guard trained 230 Guard members in March to fight fires and another 125 will be trained in July.