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Crews make 'great progress' Sunday on Umpqua North complex of fires

Umpqua North Complex information, Sept 25, 2017.

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- The lightning-caused Umpqua North Complex of fires has burned an estimated 43,140 acres and is 60% contained, fueled by timber, forest litter, grass and shrubs, officials said Monday morning.

With the improving weather, warming temperatures and drying of muddy roads and dozer lines, fire suppression repair efforts on the 10 separate wildfires that comprise the Umpqua North Complex made great progress Sunday. Again, the Great Basin Incident Management Team #3 is not saying the fires are completely out. There are still plenty of isolated pockets of unburnt fuel, smoldering stumps and individual downed large logs that will continue to smolder and possibly burn more vigorously as temperatures continue to rise over the next few days within the various fire perimeters.

Most are well within containment lines and pose little danger of escaping or spreading outside of containment lines. However, such as in the case of a section of line on the Rattlesnake Fire yesterday, where the smoldering fires occur close to the edge of containment lines, fire crews may go in and actively mop them up until the perimeter is cold and black in depth. Again, as mentioned in Sunday’s Fact Sheet update, it should be noted not all of the fires are contained, and in those areas away from structures, transportation corridors, and the like in the back country, the fires may continue to slowly creep and spread as the weather warms up.

Sunday on the Fall Creek Fire, a Hot Shot crew and an excavator began the first of three days of work. Due to the great distance from the Base Camp, the task force will be “Spiking Out” (camping) supported by MRE’s and bag lunches.

Repair efforts are anticipated to be completed by Wednesday. In the Happy Dog, Broken Tooth and Ragged Ridge Fire areas crews continued to snag (cut down fire weakened or dead trees that pose an imminent danger of falling) and perform various repair efforts and equipment back haul out of the respective fire areas. Crews are began hauling out slash piles for safe disposal and burning by Umpqua National Forest staff in select locations when conditions are right for safe burning. Monday fallers will be working with ODOT crews along the Hwy 138 corridor as they continue to eliminate hazard trees and rollout dangers to both motorists and power lines. Pilot cars will once again be implemented along Hwy 138 today so anticipate some slight delays.

Sunday Incident Commander Taiga Rohrer and Planning Operations Chief Dan Gustafson did an aerial reconnaissance of the fires. Their survey revealed only about 5% of the total fire area was high severity; blackened toothpick trees and scorched earth. Most of that was along the Ragged Ridge, Rattle Snake Ridge and Rattle Snake Creek areas. Another 20% of the areas amongst the 10 fires showed moderate severity with heavy ground fire and scorching of large trees. However, the remaining two thirds looks to be low severity and showed live big trees that had fared quite well. The fires in those areas had been a healthy slow burning ground fire that cleared out mostly saplings and dense brush and left the mature trees in good shape.

As of end-of-work Sunday, 24 miles of the 35 miles of dozer line has been repaired. 76.3 miles out of 113.9 miles of forest road have been repaired. 18.2 miles out of 22.6 miles of handline has been repaired along with an additional 36.9 miles of road to be graded by the Umpqua National Forest for a total of 118.5 miles out of 208.4 miles of combined total. These measures include building water bars to limit erosion, knocking down berms and covering lines built by crews and dozers with forest duff material and removing piles of debris/slash created during fire line construction.

On the logistical side of winding down and preparing to hand the fire areas back to the Umpqua National Forest is the recovery of over $3.5 million worth of equipment and supplies utilized in the successful efforts of containing all 10 fires. All of these materials have to be either accounted for or back hauled in and sent back to fire caches to be made ready for the next fire assignment or assignments.

Lastly, Sunday was the last day of fireline work for Task Force Spearhead, the 254 soldiers from the US Army’s 7th Infantry Division, 23rd Brigade Engineering Battalion who have handled multiple fire suppression and repair assignments on not only the Umpqua North Complex but also the High Cascades and Elephant Fires as well. Monday the Task Force Spearhead strike teams will return to base camp, turn in equipment and prepare for demobilization and return to Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, on Tuesday.

Resources assigned to the Complex: 17 20-person crews, 2 helicopters, 9 Engines, 13 pieces of heavy equipment (Bull dozers, Excavators, and Road Graders, dump trucks, etc.) and 6 Water Tenders. Total personnel 456

Closures: A list of closures can be found on the Inciweb website and the Umpqua National Forest website www.fs.usda.gov/umpqua.

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