The Oregon Wildfire Season Is Heating Up.

/////
Worthington wildfire
Worthington Wildfire 8.01.20 | Photo by kdrv.com

Southern Oregon has already had to deal with smoke and haze from wildfires, but those fires occurred in Northern California and not in Oregon. So far this summer the Oregon Wildfire season has not been particularly active. Whether it is because there haven’t been many thunderstorms or that people have been social distancing and staying at home instead of camping in and traveling through our forest lands I don’t know, but we do have an increasing number of wildfires to deal with right now.

Wildfire map
Oregon/Washington Large Wildfire Map 8.8.20 | Image by NWCC

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) currently lists five large wildfires in the state of Oregon and one in Washington as of 8.8.20.

The Buckhorn Creek fire: Located 12miles northwest of Dayville, Oregon. The number of acres involved is 310 The fuel/terrain is timber and brush. It started on 8.05.20 and the cause is lightning. Residences threatened: 0 single residences, Other structures threatened: 0 nonresidential commercial property. Resources being used: 78 people, 4 crews, 3 helicopters, and 0 engines. The fire is 80% contained. The lead agency listed is Oregon Department of Forestry.

Fir Mtn. Fire
Fir Mountain Wildfire 8.03.20 | Photo by Oregon Department of Forestry

The Fir Mountain fire: Located at Fir Mountain, east of Parkdale, Oregon. The number of acres involved is 313 The fuel/terrain is grass, brush, timber, logging slash . It started on 8.01.20 and the cause is under investigation. Residences threatened: 4 single residences, Other structures threatened: 0 nonresidential commercial property. Resources being used: 396 people, 14 crews, 1 helicopter, and 12 engines. The fire is 70% contained. The lead agency listed is Oregon Department of Forestry.

The Mud Creek fire: Located 9 miles east of French Glen, Oregon. The number of acres involved is 236. The fuel/terrain is juniper and grass. It started on 8.05.20 and the cause is lightning. Residences threatened: 4 single residences, Other structures threatened: 0 nonresidential commercial property. Resources being used: 89 people, 4 crews, 1 helicopter, and 0 engines. The fire is 60% contained. The lead agency listed is USDI Bureau of Land Management.

Neals Hill Fire
Neals Hill Wildfire 8.8.20 | Photo by incuweb.nwcg.gov

The Neals Hill fire: Located 25 miles southeast of Princeton, Oregon. The number of acres involved is 3,391. The fuel/terrain is short grass and timber. It started on 8.05.20 and the cause is lightning. Residences threatened: 0 single residences, Other structures threatened: 0 nonresidential commercial property. Resources being used: 149 people, 4 crews, 0 helicopters, and 5 engines. The fire is 60% contained. The lead agency listed is USDI Bureau of Land Management.

Worthington wildfire
Worthington Wildfire 8.01.20 | Photo by kdrv.com

The Worthington fire: Located 5 miles northeast of Eagle Point, Oregon. The number of acres involved is 761 The fuel/terrain is timber, brush, and hardwood litter. It started on 7.30.20 and the cause is under investigation. Residences threatened: 30 single residences, Other structures threatened: 40 nonresidential commercial property. Resources being used: 284 people, 9 crews, 0 helicopters, and 8 engines. The fire is 90% contained. The lead agency listed is Oregon Department of Forestry.

For updated wildfire information anytime go to: https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/information/firemap.aspxhttp:// and click on Large Fire Map listed on the toolbar om the left of the page.

What is a wildfire? According to Smokey Bear.com here is the definition of “wildfire”: “… is the term applied to any unwanted, unplanned, damaging fire burning in forest, shrub or grass and is one of the most powerful natural forces known to people.” Wildfires are sometimes caused by lightning, but statistically 9 out of 10 are human-caused.The site poses the question “Why has the number of acres burned remained high over the last few years?” The answer states four reasons: “1) past fire suppression policies which allowed for the accumulation of fuel in the form of fallen leaves, branches, and excessive plant overgrowth in forest and wildland areas. 2) Increasingly dry, hot weather. 3) Changing weather patterns across the US. 4) Increased residential development in wildland/urban interface.”

Fire Triangle
Fire Triangle | Image by tkolb.net

We learned back in elementary school science class that it takes three things for a fire to exist fuel, heat and oxygen which form the “fire triangle.” Remove one of those elements and the fire will be extinguished. That is the job of those who fight these wildfires. They must use every means at their disposal to extinguish the wildfire to save lives, property and the forest itself.

The Smokey Bear website http://https://www.smokeybear.com/en describes the tools which the firefighting teams have at their disposal to control and ultimately defeat wildfires. Modern technology plays an important role allowing the firefighters to use new computer technologies to give them quicker and better data through fire mapping, satellite imagery, more accurate weather forecasts, and fire behavior computer models. There are also new developments in fire-retardant chemicals, water delivery systems adapted for use by various aircraft, and even firefighters clothing.

Believe it or not, most of the actual firefighting work is done with old-school time-tested equipment. The following is a list of those tools vital in the fight to defeat the wildfires.

Bulldozer
Bulldozer | Image by www.fws.gov

1) Bulldozers and tractor plows– in areas where accessible they can clear vegetation and clear a firebreak faster than teams of firefighters with shovels and picks.

Air Tanker
Air Tanker Fighting Fire | Image by gov.mb.ca

2) Air tankers- large airplanes with huge tanks that can drop water or fire retardant on a large area at once.

Firefighting Helicopters | (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Rebekah Malone/Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office/Released

3) Helicopters have also been fitted with suspended tanks to drop water or fire retardant. 4) Bambi-Bucket– a collapsible bucket suspended under a helicopter used to scoop up water from rivers, ponds, or lakes to be dropped on the fire.

Pulaski Fire Axe | Photo by youtube.com

5) The Pulaski- a chopping and trenching tool with an axe blade and hoe-like blade that is carried by many of the firefighters as standard equipment.

Fire Shelter | Photo by wildfiretoday.com

6) Fire Shelter– an aluminized tent used to cover an individual protecting them from the flames. These have saved many lives when the firefighters are overrun by a fire. 7) Flame Resistant Pants/Shirt- made with special high-strength, synthetic material called Nomex.

Smoke Jumper
California Fire Smoke Jumper | Photo by www.remakingjunecleaver.com

There is a specialized group of wildfire fighters who are utilized especially when a fire is is a remote inaccessible area like steep canyons or mountainous locations. They are called “Smoke Jumpers.” The smoke jumper program started in 1939 as an experiment in the Pacific Northwest. They parachute into these areas of especially rugged terrain and have enough firefighting tools, food and water parachuted down to them to be self-sufficient for 48 hours. “About 270 smoke jumpers are working from Forest Service smoke jumper bases located in McCall and Grangeville, Idaho, Redding, California, West Yellowstone and Missoula, Montana, Winthrop, Washington, and Redmond, Oregon. There are also two Bureau of Land Management smokejumper bases in Boise, Idaho and Fairbanks, Alaska,” according to the Smokejumpers website.

With all of these resources available the job of fighting wildfires is still one that takes a lot of equipment, manpower and particularly patience.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Previous Story

Park Space Available for Outdoor Fitness Classes

Next Story

City places sanitation stations throughout community

Latest from Columns