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Chetco Bar Fire: Predicted increased winds could result in an uptick in fire behavior

(via Chetco Bar Fire Information)

BROOKINGS, Ore. -- The Chetco Bar Fire is currently estimated at over 150,000 acres, Incident Command said Monday morning.

Temperatures have risen above 100 degrees in the fire area over the past two days and the Excessive Heat Warning remains in effect through Monday. Exceptionally dry conditions were observed on the fire Sunday afternoon.

This is the fourth day that temperatures, humidity levels, and fuel moisture have aligned to create critical burning conditions, with unstable air favoring active fire behavior.

Increased winds predicted for Monday could result in an uptick in fire behavior and have the potential to carry embers up to four tenths of a mile. Smoke column development is possible especially on the east side of the fire in the brush fuels.

Firefighters will continue installing sprinkler systems and clearing brush to protect structures in Oak Flats in Josephine County and to the north toward Agness. Crews will seek out and extinguish sources of heat near the containment line (mop-up), and deploy hose along the fire perimeter to be used as fire reaches containment lines or to aid in burnout or mop-up operations. Focus today will also be on the southwest flank of the fire between Emily Creek and the Winchuck area as north winds push the fire southwest toward containment lines. Crews will continue working to slow the fire spread from the Winchuck drainage.

Sunday, fire behavior was very active in several areas around the fire perimeter. On the eastern flank, a significant smoke column developed to a height of 23,000 feet in the early afternoon to the south.

The fire spotted over Forest Road 1983 and became established in the Wheeler Creek drainage. High temperatures and critically low humidity contributed to the increase in fire behavior. Shifting winds in the afternoon improved visibility, allowing aircraft to support ground operations with water drops on portions of the fire. Crews continued to connect roads, dozer lines and handline to form direct and indirect containment lines.

Well over 500 people attended the community fire briefing in Cave Junction Sunday night. Fire officials described the regional and national fire situation then discussed operations and the strategy for the Chetco Bar Fire.

Smoke & Air Quality: The forecasted northerly wind shift will drift smoke south, impacting Brookings and Cave Junction. Communities to the north and west, such as Gold Beach, are expected to see improving air conditions. This may give aviation further opportunities to engage the fire. Conversely, those same winds can also increase or cause erratic fire activity.

Evacuations: Evacuations remain in place in Curry and Josephine Counties. The Red Cross evacuation center is located in Gold Beach at the Curry County Fairgrounds. Residents are encouraged to monitor the evacuation map for changes http://arcg.is/2vWQN2N

Shelters: The Red Cross evacuation shelter is in Gold Beach at the Curry County Fairgrounds showcase building (29392 Ellensburg Avenue). Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is also operating a shelter at The Xaa-wan’-k’wvt Village & Resort (old Ship Ashore) RV Park (located at 12370 Highway 101 North in Smith River). Residents are encouraged to monitor the interactive evacuation map for changes: http://arcg.is/2vWQN2N

Closures: Several large wildfires are burning in southwest Oregon. Area closures have been implemented on the Rogue River – Siskyou National Forest and BLM lands. Fire restrictions are in place: http://bit.ly/2erUN5B.

Officials said there was no infrared flight last night. Data from these flights is used in verifying fire perimeter and calculating acres burned. Therefore, acreage is an estimate.

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