Briefing on five major wildfires in Oregon

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Middle Fork, Rough Patch, Jack, Devils Knob, & Bull

4:18 p.m. Sept. 6, 2021

Map of Oregon Fires Sept. 6, 2021
Map of Oregon Fires Sept. 6, 2021.

There are five major wildfires or complexes of wildfires in western Oregon. None of them are raging, but there is not much standing in their way to to take off if a wind event comes over the horizon. The exception is the Jack Fire which is pretty quiet and only staffed by five personnel.

As you can see in the satellite photo below which shows approximately the same area as in the map above, an inversion is trapping smoke on the four southern-most blazes. This indicates that there is not much wind on the fire. The inversion and smoke partially block convection above the fire and solar heating of the vegetation, slowing the spread.

Satellite photo, Oregon Fires, 1:56 p.m. PDT Sept, 6, 2021
Satellite photo, Oregon Fires, 1:56 p.m. PDT Sept, 6, 2021.

Starting from the north, here are a a few details about these five fires. The term “complex”, means there is more than one fire being managed by the same Incident Management Team.

Bull Complex, 16,724 acres, Mt. Hood National Forest, 571 personnel. It is 18 miles east-northeast of Mill City. Following a round of lightning in the afternoon on August 2, four fires were identified on the south end of the Mt. Hood National Forest. Three, Janus, Kola, and Ridge Fires, were in the southeast corner of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in the Janus Butte area. The fourth fire, Round Lake, was east of the wilderness. And a fifth, Ogre Creek Fire, was detected August 3 in the Round Lake area. By August 18 they had all merged. The fire is currently being managed by Northern Rockies Type 2 Team #4.

It is actively spreading to the west in Welcome, Mother Lode, Battle, and Elk Lake Creek drainages, and to the north along the ridges between Dickey Creek and the Collowash River.

Bull Complex of fires
Bull Complex of fires, Rhododendron Ridge, OR, Sept. 2, 2021 Inciweb.

Middle Fork Complex, 24,930 acres, Willamett NF, 2 fires, 686 personnel. It is 23 miles southeast of Eugene and is being managed by the Pacific Northwest Team 6, a Type 2 Incident Management Team. The team says many snags, steep terrain, and smokey conditions make direct attack unsafe. They are planning burning operations on the Gales Fire and are staffing both night and day shifts to take advantage of weather which is slowing the spread. Firefighters are preparing for heightened fire behavior on Tuesday afternoon.

On the Kwis Fire, an engine crew continues to break up and put out all remaining burning material near the fire perimeter. “Every once in a while, we find a stump hole burning,” said Field Operations Chief Ryan Sullivan.

Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex, OR
Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 16, 2021, InciWeb.

Rough Patch Complex, 41,185 acres, Umpqua NF, 4 fires, 714 personnel. It is 18 miles southwest of Oakridge and started July 29 from 20-plus lightning ignitions. Several more fires were later added to the complex including the Jack Fire when another storm moved through August 1, bringing the total to 42. On August 28th Northern Rockies Team 1 (Type 1 IMT) assumed command.  The Complex now consists of four fires: Chaos, Little Bend, Buckhead, and Near Minky, all being managed under a full suppression strategy. Firing operations on all four fires are either being planned, prepped, or are underway.

Jack Fire, 23,990 acres (grew by 4 acres in 24 hours), Umpqua NF,  5 personnel. It is 31 miles east of Roseburg. They are calling it full suppression but report that only 55 percent of the perimeter is contained.

Devils Knob Complex, 46,596 acres, Umpqua NF, 2 fires, 711 personnel. It is 20 miles northeast of Azalea. Initially it was a group of 43 fires mostly on the Tiller Ranger District that started from lightning on July 29 and August 1. All fires in the Complex are being managed under a full suppression strategy. On September 6, the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command.

The two largest fires that continue to burn are the Smith and Big Hamlin Fires. The Smith is primarily north of the South Umpqua River, while the Big Hamlin is south of the river. Of the two the Smith Fire is the most active. Firing operations are underway on these two fires. The other fires are being monitored and held.

Firefighter Devils Knob Complex of fires
Firefighter on the Devils Knob Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 13, 2021, InciWeb.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.
View all posts by Bill Gabbert

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