Wildfire Update 2017

Geoffrey Riley/JPR News

You don't have to sell people in the state of Jefferson on the region's charms.  And tourism certainly helps pay the bills around here. 

But are we getting a rep as a place that's on fire or smoky or both?  It's been a rough fire season, with a number of events canceled by smoke concerns. 

Travel Oregon and Discover Siskiyou are in the business of convincing people they want to come here.  We check in with them to see if that job has become more difficult. 

California Wildfire Roundup For Sept. 21

Sep 19, 2017
B. Patton

The arrival of cool, rainy weather in the region has seriously dampened, if not completely doused, the fires that have been burning in northern California. Air quality has greatly improved, as well, with even communities near major fires registering "GOOD" Air Quality Index readings.

Fire managers say the recent rains are not what they call a "fire season-ending event," But the general consensus is that the fires are unlikely to significantly rebound, and that it's mostly a matter of pressing the advantage from here on out.

This will be our final California wildfire update for 2017, barring new developments.

Oregon Wildfire Roundup For Sept. 21

Sep 19, 2017

Recent rainfall has dampened, although not completely put out, the region's wildfires. And while the rain potentially creates new problems for fire crews (erosion, mudslides, flash floods), managers largely expect the weather to keep the fires from spreading and prevent new fires from starting.

The rain has also cleared the air, leaving "GOOD" Air Quality Index readings across the region.

This will be our final Oregon wildfire update for 2017, barring new developments.


The heavy fire season of this summer is just the latest in what appears to be a growing trend. 

Even fires that are not terribly large or intense can have drastic consequences, large loss of life and property. 

Michael Kodas examines the trend in his book Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame

Rains Seriously Dampen Chetco Bar Fire

Sep 19, 2017
Nighthawk via inciweb.nwcg.gov

FINAL UPDATE: TUESDAY, SEPT. 19 ... Continued wet, cool weather has largely dampened the Chetco Bar fire, which now stands at 190,512 acres and is 68 percent contained.  

This will be our final update on the Chetco Bar fire in this separate post, barring an unexpected serious fire threat. We'll continue to post daily updates on size and containment as part of our Oregon Wildfire Roundup post.

We Can All Breathe Again!

Sep 19, 2017

FINAL UPDATE: TUESDAY, SEPT. 19 ... Rain over the past few days throughout southern Oregon and northern California has dampened the wildfires and cleared the air, so much so that, as of this morning, the Air Quality Index readings in the JPR listening area are all in the "GOOD" range, except for two locations near the Oregon coast. And those readings (in Gold Beach and Agness) are "MODERATE."

Crater Lake webcam

A night and a day of rain on much of the region cleared the air in two senses: removing the smoke and lessening the fire danger.


Rain.  The word itself sounds pretty after a long stretch of hot weather and fires and smoke. 

And it began falling in the region over the weekend (September 17th), giving hope that the worst of the fires and smoky conditions might be behind us. 

That's not necessarily true, as fire managers remind us.  October can be a big fire month, too, and has been in several fire seasons. 


The dozens of fires burning in the Northwest this summer forced thousands of people from their homes and cast clouds of heavy smoke that kept residents inside and ruined untold numbers of vacations. That’s led to some vigorous finger-pointing on editorial pages, talk radio and social media. JPR asked some forest experts for a reality check.

Chetco Bar Fire Is A Sleeping Giant — For Now

Sep 12, 2017
NW IMT No. 13/Inciweb

“It seems like the fire went to sleep,” said Cave Junction resident Heather Newman, as she examined a fire map Sunday night during a community meeting held at Illinois Valley High School. “I just hope this sleeping giant doesn’t wake up.”

 UPDATE (Sunday 5 p.m. PST): The man-made Eagle Creek Fire has brought the Columbia River Gorge to a standstill since it ignited Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. That's not expected to change anytime soon.

The Oregon Department of Transportation announced Sunday evening Interstate 84 through the Gorge, closed since Monday, Sept. 4, will remain closed for at least another week — "the minimum time required to complete rock removal," the agency said in a press release. The Historic Columbia River Highway also remains closed, with no current schedule to reopen.

The Chetco Bar Fire is now burning more than 175,000 acres in the mountains near the coastal Oregon town of Brookings. The good news is that a break in the weather fueled by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lidia should give fire crews a chance to catch up.

Southwest Oregon has seen months of high temperatures and little-to-no rain, creating ripe conditions for fire starts. One of the ways fire managers determine how fire-prone an area is, is a measure called the energy release component, or ERC. 

Oregon smoke blog

There's no escaping the smoke of late.  As August rolled into September, smoke from wildfires hung heavy in the valleys of the region, driving air quality numbers into the unhealthy range. 

The problem with smoke is that such small particles--2.5 microns and smaller--is that the lungs don't easily expel them. 

Dr. Berta Baldovino from Providence Health knows the lungs and their irritants. 

The Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon has been burning since July. It's now scorched about 118-,000 acres and it’s still completely uncontained. Last week it was designated the nation’s top priority wildfire.

The megafire is still burning just five miles outside the coastal city of Brookings. OPB/EarthFix reporter Jes Burns is on the scene asking questions and getting answers.

What’s The Status This Afternoon Of Both The Fire And The Evacuations It’s Caused?


The fire situation continues to grind on day after day, with evacuation orders in effect in several places, and smoke nearly everywhere. 

Several agencies joined forces to establish a Joint Information Center on the fires in Southwest Oregon, including the Chetco Bar Fire threatening Brookings. 

The creation of the JIC is a rare move, and one that underscores the severity of the fire season. 

Hot, dry weather Sunday on the southern Oregon coast made it difficult for fire crews to stop the spread of the Chetco Bar Fire. Fire crews were refocused to keep it from creeping closer to coastal communities.

Residents of the coastal town of Brookings have been dealing with smoke and evacuation warnings for weeks now. Hundreds of them gathered Sunday evening at Brookings-Harbor High School to learn the latest on the fire burning just a few miles from town.

The Chetco Bar Fire burning about 5 miles from the coastal community of Brookings, Oregon, has in some ways redefined the role of the local school district's superintendent.

The Brookings-Harbor School District is the closest school district to the nation's top priority fire. That proximity is why district superintendent Sean Gallagher regularly attends morning briefings with firefighters and fire managers.


Please see our Oregon Wildfire Roundup post for the latest updates on this fire ...

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUG. 23 ... The fires of the Umpqua North Complex east of Roseburg are holding at 11,680 acres, and remain 1 percent contained. There are no changes to current evacuation levels.

Firefighters made progress on Tuesday with burnout operations on the west side of the Fall Creek fire and are close to completing this work. Burnout objectives are to use low intensity ignition techniques to produce a ground fire to remove burnable vegetation between the fire and firelines.

Crews continued to improve control lines on the south and east side of this fire. They were also able to keep the Ragged Ridge and Happy Dog North fires from moving into the Steamboat drainage.


Please see our Oregon Wildfire Roundup post for the latest updates on this fire ...

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUG. 23 ... Activity on the Miller Complex fires -- burning in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest -- were limited yesterday by overall cooler temperatures due to inversion, smoke cover, and higher humidity. These conditions have resulted in good progress with fire containment and mop-up efforts.


Please see our Oregon Wildfire Roundup post for the latest updates on this fire ...

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUG. 23 ... In the High Cascades Complex, fire growth was seen on Blanket Creek Fire, crossing the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sky Lakes Wilderness south of Crater Lake National Park. The weather pattern is preventing smoke from dispersing which has resulted in multiple days of very unhealthy conditions for several locations.