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2017 Umpqua Fire Season Summary


(Music) Riva Duncan, I’m the interagency fire staff officer for the Umpqua National Forest. 2017 fire season started off pretty slow. We’d had a wet, very wet winter in spring. All the predictions were that we would have a very slow fire season. But all of a sudden it stopped raining and as soon as it stopped raining Everything started to dry out. We found ourselves having a couple of pretty severe heat waves. The peak was in July, the end of July. Where we got close to setting records. We didn’t actually set records well over 100 degrees which is unusual for this part of Oregon. We started to see all of our fire behavior indices increase, so we were keeping an eye on it. We were watching things. When the predicted lightning came through we beefed up our resources in preparation Opened up expanded dispatch, brought in some contract engines and crews, some additional initial attack resources to prepare for the lightning. Sure enough that came just as predicted And we were kind of off to the races then in early August. We did use heavy air tankers and some light air tankers. We try to use every tool in the toolbox We can call that we had at our disposal. It becomes overwhelming with the number of actual fires we had. Within the first three days we had about 150 fire reports of smoke. Some of those were duplicate. We had to really prioritize Where the values were threatened. You know look at what the values at risk are. That’s where we had to kind of focus on sending the resources that we had on hand. We had a lot of successes. I think that we get we got lost in that because we experienced the large fires that lasted for so long, but our resources out on the ground did a really excellent job of suppressing a lot of those fires before they got big. So it was really a great effort. We ended up with about 20 fires we couldn’t catch. They caught 50 fires. That’s a pretty good job, and so we had a lot of successes with that. We had a really great safety record. I think we’re very mindful now of how we manage risk and what we’re asking our firefighters to do. That would reflected in our really good safety record this summer. We all had to live in the smoke and smoke is a blessing and a curse. But it’s a curse because we all hate to have to smell it. It impacts people with health issues. It’s a serious concern. It’s also a concern for our firefighters out on the line Who are exposed to day after day after day after smoke while they’re in a heavy exertion mode. it affected tourism, views, people wanting to come here and recreate. Blessing is that the smoke also Contains the fire behavior. It kind of puts a lid on it. We had some predicted high fire activity days and with the smoke laying in and it was from some of our fires and some of the fires from our neighbors, the smoke kind of Laid in on us pretty much all day and that kept that fire behavior down. I know we would have burned a lot more acreage, and we probably would have had some unacceptable fire effects from that as well. We had a lot of help from folks all over the country and so that’s one of the nice things. People come together and support each other. We were competing for resources with Montana, but all in all we had a lot of good successes with support we had. We had a lot of great support from our interagency cooperators. We’re all in this together. We support each other we help each other. Building on those relationships we have. The public was very supportive of our efforts. We know it was an inconvenience. We know the smoke was difficult. We know the closures were difficult. The highway being closed was difficult. But all we had great support from the community. They were good hosts for our firefighters who were here from out of the area, and they appreciated it. And so I really want to thank the community as well for You know kind of backing us up and supporting our folks out there trying to do the good work.

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