Weather assists firefighting efforts

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Fri Aug 2 04:52:17 EST 2002


>From The Oregonian, July 31, 2002, p E10 (Science)

Weather assists firefighting efforts
Several large fires are under control, but 450,000 acres have burned
this season

By R. GREGORY NOKES and MATT SABO, The Oregonian
	Helped by favorable weather, firefighters made progress containing
several of Oregon's once-fierce wildfires, so much so on one major
fire that crews stepped aside to let a cattle drive through.
	But other fires continued to burn out of control and threaten homes,
including Florence-Sour Biscuit in Josephine County and Timbered Rock
in Jackson County. In that order, they were the state's top priority
fires.
	Burned acreage from Oregon's fires was informally calculated at
450,000 acres, said Bonnie Lippitt, a spokesman for the Northwest
Interagency Coordinating Center in Portland.
	The total includes the Florence fire, now the state's biggest at
141,650 acres, and nearby Sour Biscuit, at 33,287. More than 12,000
firefighters, including military units, were fighting the state's
fires.
	Crews were dispatched Tuesday to one new fire, a 60-acre blaze six
miles south of Detroit in the Willamette National Forest.
	The 4,200-acre Cache Mountain fire, which burned into the Black Butte
Ranch resort northwest of Sisters on Sunday, was 85 percent contained
but remained a potential threat, fanned by gusty afternoon winds.
	"If we can hang onto this sucker today, I think we'll be over the
hump," said Bob Sandman, who directed a crew of 1,007 firefighters,
backed by three air tankers and seven helicopters.
	Officials said that barring a set-back, they planned to lift an
evacuation order at 3 p.m. today and let residents and guests return
to their homes - with a final decision this morning.
	No other homes had been damaged beyond the two destroyed Sunday.
Sandman told a meeting of resort residents Tuesday that the battle to
successfully save 84 other endangered homes Sunday was "the most
intense fire fight I've seen in about 30 years."
	Officials predicted full containment by Thursday.
	Authories reopened a closed stretch of U.S. 20 northwest of Sisters
on Tuesday but enforced a reduced speed limit of 35 mph.
	An evacuation order remained in effect for 143 homes on Elk Creek
Road, threatened by the Timbered Rock fire, burning three miles north
of the Rogue River near Medford.
	Fire spokesman Howard Hunter said the fire was only 20 percent
contained but that the 1,051 firefighters were taking advantage of a
big break in Monday's weather. "We were prepared for a blowout, but it
didn't go," he said. No structures had been lost, he said.
	Some other major fires were fully contained or nearly contained.
	The White River fire south of Maupin and the Monument fire southwest
of Baker City were 100 percent contained. officials planned to divert
soldiers from Fort Riley, Kan., from the Monument fire to the Tiller
complex fires in Douglas County on Thursday. The Tiller fires had
burned more than 21,066 acres and were only 25 percent contained.
	Fire crews had 85 percent containment of the 12,761-acre Sheldon
Ridge fire in Wasco County, which threatened more than 200 homes near
The Dalles during the weekend. Full containment was expected Thursday.
	Crews also reported 90 percent containment on the Skunk fire in
Klamath County and 85 percent containment of the 747 fire in Grant
County.
	One of the oldest and biggest fires of the season, the Tool Box fire
in Lake County, was 70 percent conained. The 1,695 firefighters paused
Tuesday morning for a moment of silence to honor firefighters who had
perished in the line of duty this season in the West. The
lightning-caused fire broke out July 12 and has burned 86,794 acres.
	Fire crews had another large Lake County fire, the 35,779-acre Winter
fire, 95 percent contained, with full containment predicted by this
morning. They were comfortable enough with their progress that they
let 600 head of cattle pass on the main access road to the fire
Monday, even though it forced the crews to find an alternate route.

Comment by poster: 450,000 acres is too much for most people to
consider. So...to find square mileage, divide the total by 640, or 703
square miles. That still may be too much to be comprehensible, so how
about...The distance from Portland to Salem, Oregon is about 60 miles.
Imagine an area that distance by 12 miles wide... now it starts to
make alarming sense.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com



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