Forest use restrictions heightened
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - News
Because of increasing fire danger in central Oregon, firewood cutting and other industrial activities on public forested lands will soon get more restricted.
>As activities in the forests are further restricted, firefighters are arriving to assist with fires now burning in southern Deschutes County and near the town of Monument
As of midnight tonight, both the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests and lands protected by BLM will move to a partial shutdown, officially known as the Industrial Fire Precaution Level III. This regulation affects industrial operations on public lands where 'spark-emitting' devices such as chainsaws, welding and feller-bunchers are used.
In addition, all personal use and commercial woodcutting is prohibited at this level.
George Chesley, Interagency Fire Management Officer for the three agencies explained that any benefit of recent rainfall is long gone. "As our fire season escalates, restrictions on high risk activities will increase," he added, "and we must increase our precautions."
As of Wednesday afternoon, the largest fire in the region, the Crane Complex south of Bend, now covers about 500 acres. Made up of 14 fires, the main fire was about 40 percent contained as of the last report. The other 13 fires are officially contained.
The fires were started by lightning strikes during last weekend's thunderstorms. High winds Tuesday interfered with fire fighting efforts and extra crews were called in from out of state.
"As the fire situation in the Northwest heats up," Incident Commander John Jackson said, "resources are harder to come by. We're very happy to get these crews. Firefighting in unfamiliar terrain and fuels is difficult, so we really appreciate these firefighters."
Nearly 260 firefighters and two helicopters are fighting the 14 Crane Complex blazes burning in the Deschutes national Forest about 20 miles southwest of Sunriver.
Three fires in the Monument Complex continue to resist
containment and are proving tough to control. These fires span almost 40 miles north to south and are each burning in different terrain and fuel type. Firefighters face challenges in the development of control strategies for each and their separation. Another challenge has been the lack of resources as Incident Commander Mike Templeton, described yesterday's situation as one in which firefighters "were over fired and understaffed".
The fires that growing the fastest are the Birch, Fern/Boneyard, and Timber Basin fires. The Birch fire, located about six miles northeast of Monument, tripled in size and is now estimated at 3,000 acres. This fire is burning in grass and juniper, on land checkered with cliffs. The Fern/Boneyard fire, located about seven miles northwest of Monument, grew to 2,000 acres and is burning in grass and juniper. Concerns on this fire include the protection of structures and keeping the fire on the east side of Forest Service road 22. By Tuesday night the 1,250 acre Timber Basin fire "blew-up" around midnight and threatened three structures. These structures were saved with the help of structural firefighting resources made available by the State Fire Marshals Office. The Timber Basin fire is burning in heavy timber. Seven residences near the Timber Basin fire were evacuated Tuesday evening in anticipation of the fire's activity. To date no structures have been lost on this fire.
The Cottonwood, Four Corners, and Franklin Mountain fires in the complex have not grown appreciably.
By Wednesday the Monument Complex fires were being fought with 423 firefighters and staff, 58 engines, 12 dozers, and six helicopters. Strike teams of structural engines from the Hood River and Linn/Benton counties arrived overnight to protect structures threatened by the Timber Basin and Fern/Boneyard fires. The fire is being managed by an Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team. Cooperators on the fire include the Oregon National Guard, which is supporting firefighting with two CH-47 helicopters.
Bridge Creek Fire
The Bridge Creek Fire, burning six miles south of Ukiah,
Oregon, in the Bridge Creek State Wildlife Management Area, has grown to 4,400 acres in size and is 50 percent contained. There is no estimated date of containment or control.
Fire activity picked up last night and the fire made a run to the south. Portions of the fire were visible from State Highway 395 along Camas Creek with several structures threatened in Camas Canyon. A task force of engines and firefighters, trained in structural fire fighting, and an Oregon State Fire Marshal Team are assigned to assist in protecting homes in the lower Camas area.
The Oregon Department of Transportation, in cooperation with Oregon State Police, has set up a roadblock on State Highway 395, from the Ukiah Junction to the North Fork John Day Bridge. Limited access to the 14-mile stretch of highway will be allowed by pilot car only. Helicopters will execute bucket work in that area today, possibly restricting travel along that section of highway.
Hot, dry weather conditions will increase the potential for spot fires today. Steep canyons and rolling, burning material continue to be a problem for our firefighters. Lack of available firefighting resources in the Pacific Northwest is also a concern.
Resources assigned to the fire today include: four helicopters, two 20-person hand crews, seven engines, nine dozers, five water tenders, and miscellaneous overhead and camp crew members. Personnel assigned to the fire totaled 198 late Wednesday with six additional crews from out of state scheduled to arrive late in the day.