Contractor dies while working on wildfire in Oregon

The Associated Press reported that a truck driver working for a contractor on the Grassy Mountain Fire in eastern Oregon died Saturday. Carolyn Chad, a BLM spokesperson, said said Kevin Hall, from Ontario, Oregon, apparently suffered a medical issue while he was working for a bulldozer contractor. Mr. Hall was the driver of the low boy truck that transported the equipment to the fire. The dozer was assisting in the rehab of fire lines.

After he was found unresponsive in his vehicle, BLM employees and another fire contractor administered CPR until an air ambulance arrived, the BLM said. Hall was pronounced dead the scene.

The Grassy Mountain Fire started from lightning on Wednesday and was contained Friday after burning about 17,000 acres of grass and brush.

We send our sincere condolences to the family and co-workers of Mr. Hall.

Water truck crashes, driver killed on Big Windy Complex in Oregon

(Originally published at 3:58 p.m. MDT, August 6, 2013; updated at 4:50 p.m. MDT, August 6, 2013 )

The driver of a water truck, also known as a water tender, was killed Tuesday morning, August 6, when his truck crashed while working on the Big Windy Complex of fires in southern Oregon. Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said 19-year old Jessie Trader was returning Tuesday morning at 7:20 a.m. after working the night shift. The truck hit an embankment and rolled over on the Bear Camp Road near Soldier Camp. Firefighters in vehicles driving behind Mr. Trader immediately stopped to assist. An advanced life support ambulance arrived on scene within minutes and life flight was quickly launched; however, all efforts to save him were unsuccessful.

The water tender, owned by Ace Earthmoving, was being used by County Fire, a private fire suppression company contracted to assist with the Big Windy Fire.

Our sincere condolences go out to the driver’s family and co-workers.

The Big Windy Complex is a group of three lightning-caused fires in southwest Oregon northwest of Grants Pass that have burned 10,832 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Since July 29 the Complex has been managed by Chris Schulte’s Type 1 Pacific Northwest #2 Incident Management Team. InciWeb has more details about the fires.

Below are some photos from the fire. The first one was taken on Bear Camp Road.

Gila Regulars clear fuel on Bear Camp Road, on the Big Windy Complex of fires. Photo by Dave Bauman, Information Officer.
Gila Regulars clear vegetation on Bear Camp Road on the Big Windy Complex of fires. Photo by Dave Bauman, Information Officer.
Jenny Fire
The Jenny Fire, part of the Big Windy Complex, burns near the Rogue River. Photo by PNW #2 IMTeam.
Morning briefing at Big Windy Complex, August 3, 2013
Morning briefing at the Big Windy Complex, August 3, 2013. Photo by Dave Bauman, Information Officer.

Red Flag Warnings and smoke map, August 5, 2013

Wildfire smoke map, 9:36 a.m. MDT, August 5, 2013

Central Oregon is experiencing “moderately dense” smoke today from the fires in southwest Oregon and northwest California, according to this analysis from NOAA. If you want a ton of more information about the smoke, they have a very detailed description.

Red Flag Warnings, August 5, 2013

Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches for enhanced wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in Idaho.


The Red Flag Warning map above was current as of 10:03 a.m. MDT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

One firefighter killed, another injured in Oregon

One firefighter has died and another was injured by a falling snag in the Deschutes National Forest near Sisters, Oregon on Thursday, August 1. The incident occurred on a new lightning-caused fire, named 398, north of Highway 242 near Dugout Lake. The two firefighters were contract personnel working as a tree falling team employed by R&K Water Services out of Bonney Lake, Washington. The names have not been released. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of the accident..

The incident was reported at 9:13 a.m. Thursday, according to Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokesperson for the Deschutes National Forest.

A rappel crew responded in a helicopter to the accident and called for an ambulance. One of the firefighters died at the scene. The other was taken to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. A water-dropping helicopter wet down the area to make it safer for other firefighters to assist with the incident.

An early morning lightning storm started dozens of wildfires in the Cascade Range of Oregon on Thursday.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and coworkers of these firefighters.

Live cam view of wildfire in Grants Pass

Fire near Grants Pass, Oregon
Fire near Grants Pass, Oregon at 6:48 p.m. PT, May 31, 2011. Screen grab from Daily Courier cam.

(UPDATE at 4 p.m. PT, June 1, 2013)

Here is an update from the Oregon Department of Forestry:

Firefighters working overnight on the Beacon Hill Fire east of Grants Pass chased down and extinguished a handful of spotfires. The crews made progress on improving the fireline, burning out unburned fingers of fuel inside the fireline, and mopping up hot spots near to the fire’s edge. The size of the fire was revised upward to 115 acres.

Today [Saturday] approximately 50 firefighters will be working to contain and extinguish the wildfire. Four fire suppression crews, four engines and two water tenders have been assigned to the fire.

The 17-second video below shows a view of the fire from a helicopter, filmed Friday by Pacific Aviation NW, pilot Brett Hopper:


(Originally published at 7:06 p.m. PT, May 31, 2013)

The Grants Pass Daily Courier has a live web cam pointed at a wildfire burning on Beacon Hill adjacent to the city along Interstate 5. (UPDATE: as of Saturday, June 1 the cam is no longer pointed at the fire.) Here is an excerpt from an article at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s web site:

A fast moving grass and brush fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. today near Interstate 5 east of Grants Pass. One home was damaged by the wildfire and an outbuilding burned. No injuries have been reported, and no evacuations have been called for.

The fire is burning through heavy brush and mixed forest on Beacon Hill. Steep terrain and continuous vegetation caused the fire to grow rapidly between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Beacon Drive is closed to traffic, and one lane of the northbound lane of Interstate 5 is closed, but traffic is moving through. Jones Rd. is closed.

Approximately 100 wildland firefighters and 70 structural firefighters are working to contain the blaze and protect homes. Two helicopters are dropping bucketfuls of water on the fire, and two bulldozers are constructing fire line.

The web cam may be intermittent.

Foreign workers hired with federal stimulus money for USFS contracts

Contractors in Oregon who were awarded contracts for work in national forests hired foreign workers even though one of the goals of the federal stimulus funds was to decrease unemployment in the United States.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Oregonian:

In the Oregon case, contracts in the amount of $7 million were approved to clear and clean federal forests in central Oregon at a time when local unemployment was nearly 15 percent. Local officials said there where thousands of experienced workers were idle who could fill the need. When the contracts were announced in 2009, Oregon had the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.1 percent.

Even so, the contractors told federal regulators they could not find enough local workers for the jobs.

The federal investigation looked at 14 contracts to clear federal forests in central Oregon. The contracts were controlled by four Oregon companies: Medford Cutting Edge Forestry, Summitt Forestry, Ponderosa Reforestations, and G.E. Forestry. All hired foreign workers, according to the report, though they didn’t all handle hiring in the same way.

While legal, the hiring practices appear to violate the spirit and purpose of the $840 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus, which was designed to create jobs that would jumpstart the country out of recession.

The article does not say that any contract fire crews used foreign workers.

Members of the Oregon House of Representatives are scheduled to vote on House Bill 3315, which would require the Oregon Employment Department to report on any company performing “forest maintenance” work on federal lands that use foreign workers on temporary work visas instead of domestic workers.


Thanks go out to Kelly.