Warm, Windy Weather Could Fan Collier Butte Fire In Kalmiopsis Wilderness
UPDATE: SATURDAY, AUGUST 15, 4:30 P.M. ... Crews are making progress on the Collier Butte fire burning in Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness, east of Gold Beach in Curry County.
But a coming change in weather could pose challenges for firefighters.
The fire has burned 5,607 acres so far and is 20 percent contained.
Yesterday’s rain and cool air is expected to transition Saturday, as warm, dry winds from the northeast align with the topography of the Collier Creek drainage generating the “Chetco Effect”. Sustained high winds are anticipated, with gusts as high as 30-35 mph over ridges. Weather conditions are projected to reach critical fire weather levels by 6 pm this evening and continue through 12:00 P.M. Sunday.
Burn-out operations have been completed in the northwest and current tactics will focus on mopping up and extinguishing burning and smoldering fuels to reinforce control lines.
In the west, fire managers will monitor conditions and are prepared to begin burn-outs if the opportunity presents itself prior to the shift in weather. Firefighters took advantage of favorable weather on the southwest perimeter Friday by constructing approximately one mile of direct line along the edge of the fire and plan to tie this section to an anchor point today.
Crews working the south are on alert and prepared to respond to an advancing fire driven by Chetco winds.
All personnel working the Collier Butte Fire are reviewing safety zones and escape routes as an additional precaution.
Alternate containment lines are in place in the north along FR 3680, and in the south along FR 1376 from Mineral Hill to Tolman Ranch. Managers continue to scout locations for additional containment lines and evaluate natural barriers on all sides of the fire. Firefighter safety is the primary concern, and the rugged terrain, limited access and abundant snags present a multitude of challenges.
A helicopter dip tank is located on the bank of the Illinois River in Agness to treat and rinse buckets for water drops as an added safeguard against the potential spread Port Orford cedar root disease.
Resource advisors work with firefighters to provide protection measures for wilderness values, including habitat for coho salmon, northern spotted owl, and marbled murrelet.
Businesses along the south coast and Rogue River remain open. Residents and visitors to Gold Beach, Brookings and nearby communities are encouraged to drive carefully as firefighter traffic in the area has increased. Although the Event Center on the Beach is currently closed to the public, the Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach will host the Fair August 27-30 as planned.
UPDATE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 14, 10:30 A.M. ... The Collier Butte fire is spreading slowly, growing to 5,181 acres in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness east of Gold Beach, Oregon.
The fire is currently 15 percent contained
On Wednesday, burn-out operations progressed west from the 420 spur road to Forest Road 3680. Heavy equipment continued building an alternate line on the north flank from FR 3680 northeast toward Game Lake as a precautionary measure.
Light rain occurred over the fire last night and into the morning, decreasing fire activity and reducing opportunities for burnout operations. Infrared flights were unable to gather accurate fire perimeter data due to cloud cover. Although cooler, wet weather is present today, the weekend forecast calls for warmer, dryer weather with increased winds.
With favorable weather conditions, firefighters will assess opportunities to build direct line along the southwest perimeter of the fire. The planned burnout operation along Forest Road 3680 will be postponed until fuels become more receptive. Heavy equipment will continue building an alternate line on the north flank from FR 3680 northeast toward Game Lake.
Crews will put the finishing touches on indirect lines by falling snags and removing fuels along FR 3680 in preparation for burning out the west flank. Firefighters will also prepare the 1376 road system to the Big Craggies area for burnout operations, and reduce fuel along Forest Road 1376 from Mineral Hill to the Tolman Ranch for an alternate line.
Fire managers continue scouting the east and northeast portion of the fire, evaluating safe options to slow the fire’s eastward progression. The fire area features limited access, steep terrain, and an abundance of snags, all of which present safety concerns for firefighters.
A dip tank was installed on the banks of the Illinois River in Agness to treat water used for helicopter bucket drops and rinse helicopter buckets as an added safeguard against the spread of Port Orford cedar root disease.
Resource advisors are providing fire suppression measures to protect wilderness values and habitat for coho salmon, northern spotted owl, and marbled murrelet.
UPDATE: THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 9:40 A.M. ... The Collier Butte fire, burning in the northwest portion of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and remote Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest east of Gold Beach, has grown to 5,146 acres. It remains 10 percent contained.
Taking advantage of favorable weather, firefighters progressed with burnout operations on the north flank Wednesday by bringing fire westward along Forest Road 420. As temperatures increased and humidity dropped late in the afternoon, fire managers stopped the burnout due to unfavorable burning conditions.
Firefighters will continue strengthening containment lines with burnout operations intended to remove unburned fuel between the main body of the fire and completed lines. As weather conditions allow, the burnout will progress westward along the 420 spur road toward Forest Road 3680 on the fire’s north flank.
Crews and dozers will continue building an alternate line to the north from Game Lake Trailhead east into the Wilderness, using FR 3680. With primary containment lines on the west flank completed and awaiting desirable burning conditions, alternate lines will be improved.
Line construction on the south flank continues in order to tie the 460 spur road into the Big Craggies area. As a precautionary measure, firefighters will improve Forest Road 1376 from Mineral Hill to Tolman Ranch and wrap structures in the area with fire-resistant foil.
Fire managers are scouting natural barriers to slow fire spread to the east and northeast.
Steep terrain, an abundance of snags and limited access continue to provide challenges and safety concerns for firefighters. Warm, dry weather and an increase in wind speed is expected to increase fire activity over the next few days.
A community meeting to provide public information regarding the Collier Butte Fire will be held in Brookings at 6 pm today (Thursday, August 13) at the Brookings-Harbor High School gymnasium. All are invited to attend.
UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, 10:20 A.M. ... The Collier Butte wildfire continues to burn in the northwest portion of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and remote Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest System lands on the Gold Beach Ranger District.
The fire has burned 4,366 acres and is 10 percent contained.
Firefighters completed a containment line around the fire’s west flank by improving existing roads for an indirect line and using crews to build sections of direct line along the fire’s edge. Crews will continue burnout operations intended to strengthen these lines by removing vegetation between the main body of the fire and the completed lines in preparation of warmer and dryer weather forecasted for the weekend.
Now that primary lines are in place on the western flank, crews and heavy equipment will begin working on alternate or contingency lines as a backup plan in this full suppression firefighting effort. Chippers will be used to reduce fuels from chainsaw work along the roads used for containment lines.
Hotshot crews will continue building line in the southern area of the fire along and within the wilderness boundary. Fire managers and crew leads are scouting the east and northeast flank for opportunities to prevent the fire from spreading to the east and crossing the Illinois River.
Helicopters will continue to support ground personnel by dropping water, transporting firefighters and hauling supplies. Road graders are improving the surface of the upper section of Hunter Creek Road to provide for safer travel of firefighting vehicles.
Resource advisors continue to provide information to protect wilderness values, coho salmon, northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet habitats during fire fighting operations.
Closures: Businesses along the south coast and Rogue River remain open. Residents and visitors to Gold Beach, Agness and nearby communities are encouraged to drive carefully as firefighter traffic in the area has increased. The upper section of Hunter Creek Road is closed to the public. Although the area is currently closed to the public, the Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach will host the Fair August 27-30.
UPDATE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 10:30 A.M. ... The Collier Butte Fire continues to burn in the northwest portion of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and remote Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest System lands on the Gold Beach Ranger District.
Aerial infrared sensors indicate the fire is 3,931 acres. The fire is 5% contained and poses no immediate threat to communities along the coast.
There are no highway closures and businesses remain open to the public.
Burnout operations began yesterday afternoon, as crews ignited 1.5 miles of containment line with drip torches along Forest Service Road 420 in the north. These operations will continue today and fire managers plan to begin burnout operations along the western and southern perimeters as firefighters complete construction and reinforcement of containment lines. Helicopter support is used during these actions, providing a means to cool any hot spots with bucket drops.
Fuels in the area are extremely dry due to prolonged drought. The fire area has varied fuel types, including the green, moist fuels near creeks, old growth in the wilderness, and large areas of heavy brush and burned vegetation from the Biscuit Fire.
The current weather pattern in the area has directed the fire toward the northeast, and is forecasted to continue through Friday. Incident meteorologists periodically launch weather balloons from the fairgrounds to obtain the most relevant weather data for producing forecasts. These balloons may be visible in the morning and pose no threat to aircraft.
The cabin and communications infrastructure at Snow Camp Lookout are wrapped in fire-resistant foil for protection.
A community meeting to provide information about the Collier Butte Fire will be held in Agness tonight, August 11, 2015 at 6 pm. The meeting will be held in historic Agness at the Community Hall. An additional community meeting will be held in Brookings Thursday, 6pm, August 13, 2015 at the Brookings-Harbor High School gymnasium.
The Curry County Fair will proceed as planned August 27-30. Management of the Collier Butte Fire will move to an alternate location prior to the beginning of the fair.
ORIGINAL POST: MONDAY, AUGUST 10 ... Fire crews are working a growing wildfire burning about 18 miles east of Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast.
Sunday night’s infrared flight showed the Collier Butte fire burning 2,788 acres in the northwest portion of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and remote Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest System lands. The fire is 5% contained.
Limited road access, steep terrain, tall brush and large standing dead trees continue to pose challenges to firefighter safety and guide management tactics used to fully contain the wildfire.
Firefighters are using both direct and indirect tactics to contain the fire. Dozers and handcrews continue to make great progress in fireline construction. Existing roads have been reopened with dozers and some will serve as containment lines. Crews continue to remove brush to reduce the fuels along these roads. The road improvements and brush removal is in preparation for an eventual burnout operation to strengthen the fire line.
Communication infrastructure and the Snow Camp Lookout, currently wrapped in fire-resistant foil, will be protected. The strategy is to keep the fire west of the Illinois River and minimize impacts to habitat, watersheds, wilderness qualities, and threatened and endangered species.
Natural resources at risk from the Collier Butte Fire include: critical Coho Salmon habitat, Northern Spotted Owl habitat, Marbled Murrelet habitat, and wilderness values. Resource advisors are available to identify areas with sensitive plants, animals, and cultural resources, in order to help protect these valuable natural resources during the fire suppression effort.
Also at risk is the spread of Port Orford Cedar root rot disease that is present on the Forest. Resource advisors are providing specific measures to prevent the spread of this disease by treating potentially contaminated water with bleach. An additional measure to reduce the spread of the root rot disease and invasive plant species to lands in and around the fire include implementing a "weed wash station" to clean vehicles going to and from the Forest.
Communities and businesses along the south coast and the Rogue River remain open and welcome the public.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to drive carefully as firefighter traffic in the area has increased. Residents along Hunter Creek Road, the main access route to the fire, will also see an increase in fire traffic. Driving sight distance on roads in the fire area access is very limited with sharp corners and few turnouts on narrow roads. Helicopter operations are based in Agness.
The Curry County Fairgrounds and the Day Use Area behind the fairgrounds are temporarily closed to public access. The facilities are currently being used as an Incident Command Post for the Collier Butte Fire.
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has implemented an Emergency Road and Area Closure for Public Health and Safety. This closure is effective as of August 7, 2015. Specific information for the closure is available on the Collier Butte Inciweb site.