FIRE RESTRICTIONS: Fire Season terminated October 16, 2017.
MH1 and MH4 IFPL: IFPL Terminated as of October 16, 2017.

Friday, November 18, 2016

2016 Central Oregon District Fire Season Highlights

The 2016 Fire Season in ODF’s Central Oregon District (COD) wrapped up October 14th as fall rains and cooler temperatures reduced the risk of large fire growth.  At first glance 2016 appears to be a return to “normal” when compared to the historic fire seasons of 2013, 2014, and 2015.  Year-to-date, ninety-seven fires have burned 2,456 acres protected by COD.  The ten-year average for this time period is 156 fires, burning 11,958 acres.  

Fuel conditions in May and early June looked as though 2016 would be similar to the previous three fire seasons.  Fuels were dry, and were burning like it was July.  One of the key influences for the 2016 fire season was the low number of lightning strikes inside the District and rain that came with the lightning, rather than the dry lightning of years past.  There were approximately 2,800 lightning strikes (YTD), the lowest number in the last fifteen years.  Over 25% of these strikes came during the first eight days in June, corresponding with the dry fuel conditions.  Nearly 50% of the fires caused by lightning were started during this time period, including the Akawana Fire which burned 2,094 acres.

The Akawana Fire ignited on June 7th burning in beetle killed timber and heavy brush.  The fire was initially pushed by strong winds, threatening communities northeast of the fire.  ODF’s Incident Management Team 3 and Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Green Team were brought in to manage the fire.  This was the only fire managed by an Incident Management Team in the District in 2016.  Mid-June rains helped put the Akawana Fire out, as well as reducing fire danger from near record levels.

Neal Creek Fire--The Dalles Unit
Human caused fires plagued the District throughout the summer, including the Chenoweth (June), Wassen Pond (July) and Neal Creek (August) fires which burned nearly 250 acres in The Dalles Unit.  John Day Unit firefighters responded to ten human caused fires which burned 56 acres of ODF protected land.  Humans accounted for thirty-one fires in the Prineville-Sisters Unit; quick action and available resources helped firefighters keep these fires small.  Partnerships with landowners, Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, Rural Fire Departments, and federal agencies such as BLM, USFS, and BIA, were key to successful initial attack within the District.  

Special Purpose Appropriation funds from the Oregon Legislature continue to fund air resources that are a critical element of our success.  These air resources were used to supplement District ground resources during high risk times in order to increase our initial attack effectiveness.  Two Type 2 helicopters, a Type 3 helicopter and helitack crew, and three Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT’s) supported the District’s on the ground resources in 2016.  Two additional airplanes were contracted by the District to use as aerial detection and reconnaissance.  COD on the ground resources include 30 fire engines, 3 hand crews, 4 district dozers, and 3 tenders staffed by 81 seasonal personnel.  COD’s thirty-five permanent personnel are an integral part of the wildfire suppression effort by providing support and leadership to the frontline resources.

While much of the seasonal workforce is gone until next fire season, fire managers and administrative staff continue to work to prepare for financial audits, review the 2016 fire season to look for opportunities for improvement, prepare equipment for the 2017 fire season, plan next year’s budget and protection resources, and participate in training to improve the District’s response to wildfires.

Contact information for local ODF Offices can be found on the District’s webpage:

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