Crews work to snuff 100+ fires
September 19, 2001
By PAUL FATTIG
Seven small lightning-sparked fires are being allowed to burn themselves out under the watchful eyes of fire officials in the Crater Lake National Park.
But in the lower elevations of Southern Oregon, firefighters are working to snuff out the roughly 100 other wildfires ignited by thunderstorms since Friday. Most of those fires have been extinguished.
However, the Craggy Fire continues to burn in the remote Kalmiopsis Wilderness deep in the Siskiyou National Forest. It has grown to more than 200 acres.
Each of the seven fires in the national park covers less than a quarter of an acre, said Craig Letz, fire management officer at the park. With cooler and wetter weather forecast in the next two weeks, the National Park Service has decided to allow the fires to burn naturally, he said.
Allowing the fires to burn in the fire-dependent ecosystem removes accumulations of dead wood while recycling nutrients back into the soil, according to park officials.
Two other fires have been suppressed, he said, noting that Mother Nature offered a helping hand by dumping nearly an inch of rain on some sections of the park during the storms.
The recent rain also has prompted the park service to lift fire restrictions in the park.
Extreme fire danger remains in effect on the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests as well as all lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. The latter includes Bureau of Land Management, state, county and private lands.
Quick action by firefighters aided by helicopters carrying buckets and fixed-wing aircraft dropping retardant enabled officials to put out many of the fires before they were able to spread, said Mike Hannan, a BLM employee with the Multi Agency Fire Center in Medford.
“We’re looking pretty good now,” he said.
The exception is the Craggy Fire, where about 30 firefighters are battling the blaze along Tincup Creek east of the Big Craggies Botanical Natural Area.
The fire is burning brush and hardwoods that sprang up in the aftermath of the 96,540-acre Silver Fire in 1987, said Siskiyou spokeswoman Mary Stansell.
“It’s a real remote area,” she said. “And it’s real dry out there. We had no rain with the storms, just lightning.”
More firefighters were expected to be mobilized to join those on the fireline today, she said.
About 50 small fires were burning in the Klamath and Six Rivers national forests in far Northern California.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com