Weather plays major role in Oregon wildfire containment

Wildfires

Shift in winds to send smoke in different directions

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The rain may have slowed some of Oregon’s biggest wildfires, but fire season is not over. Incident commanders say, with the weather changing this week, it could impact the behavior of those fires.

Fire officials on the Riverside Fire in Clackamas County said this means that smoke could return, and hot spots could emerge within the existing fires.

“The moisture has a double-edged effect as well: it slows things down, but it makes also it difficult to identify where the heat is. So, next week with the warming and drying… folks will see more smoke, likely. They will see things popping up and smoking that they haven’t seen for the past number of days but that will help us focus where we need more resources,” said Randy Johnson, Incident Commander Trainee with the Riverside Fire PNW Incident Management Team 3.

He said they are paying close attention to some wind and weather patterns that are changing this week, however, he also said the probability was extremely low that there would be additional evacuations. Fire officials are monitoring the situation and are comfortable with where they are at, noting that the conditions will be nothing like what fueled major fires over Labor Day.

Beachie Creek Fire incident management said they will also be keeping an eye on the weather this week. Public Information Officer Scott Owens said the current perimeter around the fire is massive–at 400 acres.

“We put a lot of work in ahead of this upcoming shift in weather, but we are looking ahead to having some drying conditions which will increase the fire behavior within the perimeter,” said Owens.

He said if folks see fire within the perimeter due to the weather changes, that is to be expected to some extent. Owens said crews will be monitoring those flare ups.

Full containment on the Beachie Creek Fire is projected for late October, according to fire officials. There is still the possibility for power outages, rock slides, and trees that come down and block roads.

For communities that have been reduced to Level 2 “Be Set” evacuations, Owens said they don’t anticipate the fire going toward those communities again.

Fire officials are hoping to see another, longer stretch of rain soon with the arrival of fall weather.

Here are the latest updates surrounding the several wildfires burning across Oregon:

Holiday Farm Fire

After days of wetting rain and cool temperatures, warm and dry east winds will enter the area where Holiday Farm Fire is burning later Sunday, pushing temperatures into the mid 80’s through Wednesday.

Fire officials monitoring the fire in Lane County said they are cautiously optimistic that work accomplished so far will result in similar results from the last time these conditions tested control lines just four days ago.

“That east wind event fanned flames and stirred up embers deep inside the fire’s interior,” officials said in a release Sunday. “But, [it] did not create any problems outside established containment lines.”

More than 500 firefighters are still working on the fire, gridding areas and extinguishing hot spots. Hazard tree and debris removal will continue along Highway 126, but local motor vehicle traffic will be allowed through with a pilot car along a 10-mile stretch between mileposts 28 and 38, according to officials.

As of Sunday, the Holiday Farm Fire was deemed 50% contained. It has burned 173,094 acres to date.

Beachie Creek Fire

Marion County’s Beachie Creek Fire has swallowed 192,838 acres to date and is 56% contained as of Sunday, according to officials monitoring the fire.

Residents just returning to their homes along the Highway 22 corridor will see and smell more smoke. Fire officials said the smoke will be a result of a shift in wind direction.

Firefighters are slated to turn their attention to monitoring the fire edge and making sure any hot spots are destroyed.

Officials also warned that in the coming weeks, warmer weather, low humidity, and winds will dry small sticks and organic materials — increasing the possibility of nearby trees catching fire.

“If next to burning tree stumps, [the organic materials] could ignite and creep inside of the fire’s boundary in the northeast, towards the Bull of the Woods Wilderness,” officials said in a release Sunday. “These heat sources will continue to smolder, and smoke will remain within the perimeter for weeks, but not affecting the perimeter.”

Lionshead Fire

Shifts in wind direction will also affect those around the nearby Lionshead Fire.

“The high winds yesterday tested some areas of the fire that had been inactive, but the control lines passed that test,” officials said in a release Sunday. “There was interior burning, but no fire spread. The more immediate problem was the need to pull crews and equipment back momentarily in areas where the windy conditions presented a danger due to hazard trees falling.”

As of Sunday, the Lionshead Fire was 34% contained and has burned nearly 205,000 acres in Marion County.

Riverside Fire

The human-caused Riverside Fire burning in Clackmas County has been kept at bay for several consecutive days after more than three inches of rain fell over the fire area in the past week.

“No spread is expected,” fire officials said in a release Sunday. “It will take a few days of warmer and dry weather before fine fuels such as grass are able to carry fire.”

In addition to monitoring fire lines and mop-up work, crews will work along Highway 224 — the main access to the Timberlake Job Corp and Ripplebrook Guard Station.

The Riverside Fire is 34% contained and has burned 138,029 acres since September 8.

Big Hollow Fire

Some evacuation orders surrounding Southwest Washington’s Big Hollow Fire were downgraded from Level 3 to Level 2 Sunday including cabins located at Government Mineral Springs near Trapper Creek Wilderness.

Campfire restrictions in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest have been lifted as well.

Wind River Highway/Forest Road 30 is still partially closed between Carson National Fish Hatchery and Curly Creek Road. It remains open North of Curly Creek Road towards the Lone Butte area, according to fire officials.

Firefighters will spend Sunday working in Government Mineral Spring to remove remaining equipment, hose lays and sprinkler systems.

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