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'Every home and acre has value to the community': Chetco Bar Fire puts Brookings in peril

Photo of firefighters working the Chetco Bar Fire via Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

BROOKINGS, Ore. - Residents of the City of Brookings have been notified to get ready to evacuate as the Chetco Bar Fire continues to burn out of control in southwest Oregon.

The fire has now burned 102,333 acres, an area nearly three times the size of Eugene and Springfield combined.

An army of nearly 1,400 firefighters are on scene, working to control the blaze - and preparing to protect homes.

Containment is estimated at zero percent on the fire, now 5 miles outside Brookings.

And the weather is working against firefighters: After a brief period of cooler weather, the forecast calls for hot, dry conditions - with so-called "Chetco winds" blowing east to west, driving the flames closer to town.


EVACUATIONS IN EFFECT

A Level 1 (Get Ready) evacuation notice went out Thursday for Brookings and unincorporated areas of Curry County not already subject to evacuation notices.

"Actions should include choosing a location out of the Brookings-Harbor area to which you may need to relocate," the City of Brookings and the Curry County Sheriff said in a letter to residents.

"We are fortunate to have hundreds of firefighters and a great deal of fire apparatus staged in the City and at the Port that will be available to respond to provide protection to the community," the letter reads. "However, fire activity is unpredictable, particularly during dry, windy Chetco Effect conditions. If the fire does move into the City, it is likely to be from burning embers travelling through the air."

The local school district has already delayed the start of the school year by a week.

A large swatch of the county is under a Level 2 (Get Set) evacuation notice.

The area closest to the fire, where at least 7 homes have been destroyed by flames, is under a Level 3 (GO!) evacuation.

"The unified team recognizes that every home and acre across the landscape has value to the community," fire managers said in a daily report. "The team is working to protect these values."

FIREFIGHTERS WORKING TO SAVE HOMES

"Clear skies allowed aviation resources to drop retardant and water along containment lines on the western and southwestern portions of the fire," fire managers said in a briefing Friday about Thursday's work. "Throughout the night handcrews and dozers worked to build direct and indirect containment lines and patrol fire activity near homes."

The National Weather Service issued a Fire Weather Watch for the Chetco Bar Fire area.

Forecasts call for strong, gusty winds and low humidity.

"As a result of the persistent winds and low relative humidity, fuels will be drier and prone to ignition from flying embers," fire managers said.

Fire managers planned to work Friday to prepare for the so-called "Chetco Effect" by using planes and helicopters to reinforce fire lines.

Structure firefighters mobilized from around the state are preparing to defend homes in the event the fire reaches town.

"Firefighters have been visiting homes to familiarize themselves with neighborhoods and to evaluate access and the ability to defend structures from fire," the City and Sheriff said in the letter to residents. "They have been assisting property owners with cleaning debris from rain gutters and rooftops, and other work to improve fire safety."

Smoke and haze continues to cause concerns about visibility on Highway 101 through the area.

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