Firefighters mop up blazes from thunderstorm
September 18, 2001
By MARK FREEMAN
Scores of firefighters on Monday attacked dozens of the nearly 100 small wildfires left from a weekend thunderstorm that generated more than 7,000 lightning strikes in Southern Oregon.
By far the largest of the weekend lightning fires was the 120-acre Craggie Fire burning in steep and rugged terrain of the Siskiyou National Forest’s Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, where vehicles are banned.
Forest Service fire crews pounded the flames Sunday and Monday with buckets of water dropped by helicopters and retardant drops from airplanes flying out of Medford, Forest Service spokeswoman Mary Marrs said.
Eight smoke jumpers were taken by helicopter into the area Monday and built a small helicopter landing spot to assist firefighting efforts, which today was expected to include 40 federal “hotshots” who will be ferried in by helicopters, Marrs said.
Meanwhile, other state, federal and private fire crews fought dozens of small lightning fires while on foot, in vehicles, in the air and with the aid of parachutes.
The fires were all remnants of the dramatic lightning storm that passed through the Rogue Valley early Saturday morning.
No homes or other structures were threatened, and most of the fires were small little “sleeper” fires burning in a downed log, a standing snag or a small patch of remote forest land.
Mike Hannan from the Multi-Agency Fire Center in Medford said these sleeper fires sometimes smolder for several days in wet grass and in brush before they generate enough heat and smoke to be seen.
“Normally, these sleeper fires here are done in three days,” Hannan said. “But under these conditions, I could see some holding on a week before they smolder enough to be reportable.”
Nine specially trained federal smoke jumpers from Redmond parachuted Monday into three other small forest fires around the Applegate Valley. They include a small blaze on the east side of Wagner Butte, a small fire on the Klamath National Forest south of Applegate Lake just over the California border, and a third in the Applegate drainage near Thompson Creek.
The fires were all discovered Saturday or Sunday, and were deemed remote and threatening enough to draw the first of the elite smoke jumpers back to the region since August’s Quartz Fire in the Siskiyou Mountains, Hannan said.
“These were selected as priority fires because they could get up and away from us …,” Hannan said.
These three were part of 40 fires on local federal lands handled by 110 firefighters from Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and private contracting companies, Hannan said.
State forestry crews had detected at least 36 fires on private and county lands in Jackson and Josephine counties.
About two dozen other small fires were reported burning in the Crater Lake National Park area, Hannan said.
The vast majority were all well under an acre in size, and no injuries were reported.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail email@example.com