Forest fire experts with boots on the ground have seen some troubling fire behavior this fire season in at least one of the bigger fires in Central Oregon.
Public Affairs Officer for Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland, Kassidy Kern, commented on Friday, July 16, that Central Oregon is under a red flag warning right now for gusty winds and relative humidity.
"We are very fortunate right now because we have the resources that we need in Central Oregon," she went on to say. "We have had the addition of the aviation assets to support firefighters on the ground and crews on the ground who are trying to contain these fires."
She added that although we have been lucky in these aspects, there has been some troubling fire behavior.
"That said, when you are talking about fire behavior, one of the things that I particularly noticed was the incident commander on Grandview, who was part of the Central Oregon Fire Management Service team that had it for the first day before the Oregon Department of Forestry team took it over—said that this fire behavior that he was seeing in the brush and juniper and some mixed conifer and ponderosa area, was the kind of fire behavior he would see if there was a wind on that fire," Kern added.
She emphasized that at that time, there was not a red flag warning and there was no wind on the fire—at the very most a 3-mph wind.
"He said this is burning like it had a 15-20 mph wind on it, and that is troublesome."
Kern said that the fire was not creating its own weather, but it was so combustible that everything at the time was spotting.
"We were seeing a ton of group torching, even through the nighttime hours when you would expect that the lower temperatures and higher relative humidities would moderate fire behavior. They really weren't seeing that; they were still seeing incredible active fire behavior throughout the night," she pointed out.
She added that even though the crews put in a containment line, the fire was spotting right over the line.
"They were just really chasing this thing because that fire behavior is really tipping on the end of extreme. We are in a place right now where we are still seeing some ramp down in fire activity in Central Oregon."
The Darlene Fire outside of La Pine was burning on some private land, BLM-managed lands, and some of the fire was burning on Deschutes National Forest land.
"That fire got up and ran really fast, and again, we were blessed and lucky that we had aviation assets that could just load and return out of Redmond, and that helped us out a lot when we think about what the devastation to our communities could be when we have these fires outside of communities," Kern said of the advantage to having aviation assets as close as Redmond.
She said that individuals did lose homes.
"Our hearts and our thought go out to those people, because they are now in the process of rebuilding."
She concluded that it is considered early still in the fire season, which is on everyone's mind right now.
According to the Central Oregon District, Oregon Department of Forestry incident information system website, as of Monday, July 19, the Grandview Fire was 57% contained, and had burned 6,032 acres. It began on July 11, 10 miles northeast of Sisters, and over the duration of the fire had 619 personnel.
The Bureau of Land Management incident information system website reported on July 19 that the Darlene Fire was holding at 686 acres and was 85% contained. It originated near Darlene Road near La Pine on July 13, and over the course of the fire, had 223 personnel.
Kern said that as of Friday, July 16, there were not any other active fires in Crook County. On Friday morning, there was a fire that cropped up near Barnhouse Campground on Ochoco National Forest. It was from a holdover from a lightning storm two weeks ago.
"We can have lightning holdover fires that start up to two weeks after a lightning strike hits, and it will just sit and cook in there. It will pick up some steam and pick up some heat," Kern pointed out.
It was spotted by a lookout on Pisgah Lookout. It was contained at a quarter acre.
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