Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry##The Willamina Creek Fire has burned 230 acres
Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry##The Willamina Creek Fire has burned 230 acres
Photo by Don Everingham##Flames from the Willamina Creek Fire light up the sky Thursday morning.
Photo by Don Everingham##Flames from the Willamina Creek Fire light up the sky Thursday morning.
Photo by Don Everingham##Firefighters use a bulldozer to help clear combustable materials away from the flames.
Photo by Don Everingham##Firefighters use a bulldozer to help clear combustable materials away from the flames.
By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Willamina Creek Fire is 75 percent contained; East Creek, Willamina Creek roads reopen

(Updated: 3 p.m. Wednesday)

 

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire has been contained to such a degree that Willamina Creek and East Creek roads, north of the junction with Coast Creek Road, will reopen to vehicular traffic at 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Sheridan Fire District.

The Level I evacuation notice for the four cabin-like residences on East Creek will also be lifted.

"This will also signify the end of night firefighting operations," Sheridan fire spokesperson Wes Rolfson said. "Crews will continue to mop up the fire over the next couple of weeks, but crews will not need to work through the night to keep it contained."

The fire burned 230 acres, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

(Updated: 6 a.m. Tuesday)

WILLAMINA - The 230-acre Willamina Creek Fire is 75 percent contained, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. The cost of fighting the fire has exceeded $1 million.

Crews spent Monday fully-engaged in mop-up work.

This is arduous work during which firefighters locate and fully extinguish every hot spot. This process requires digging out roots and stumps or breaking apart piles of burned fuel which still has burning material deep inside. Crews often use water to extinguish the burning material completely until they can't feel any heat.

Mop up can be a long process, especially in the heavy fuels that characterize the northwest Oregon Coast Range forests.

Firefighters on the Willamina Creek Fire will be mopping up the entire 230-acre fire area to ensure no hidden ember has a chance to escape and reignite the fire.

Tree fallers are working in the fire area again Tuesday, taking down snags and hazard trees to protect the crews who will be working below. Handheld infrared cameras will be used again Tuesday night to help identify as many hidden hot spots as possible.

A few crews will also be working on mop-up this evening.

Wildland resources assigned to the fire - 13 hand crews, six engines, one bulldozer, six water tenders and overhead personnel - have been reduced to 197 personnel, down from 266 at its peak.

Willamina Creek and East Creek roads remain closed north of the junction with Coast Creek Road.

(Updated: 10:30 a.m. Monday)

WILLAMINA - Excellent progress on containing the Willamina Creek Fire was made Sunday, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The fire has not grown since Friday night, and remains at 230 acres, with containment having reached 50 percent.

Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry##An engine crew from ODF’s Astoria District works mopping up a stump hole on the Willamina Creek Fire.

 

Increases in acreage reported in recent days reflect the GPS data collection work that has been completed, which has resulted in more accurate mapping. The final acreage is not expected to increase from the 230 figure.

Firefighters continued the grueling work of mopping up the fire. Crews made great progress on this work on the majority of the fire perimeter. Some heat remains along the east side of the fire, which crews focused on Sunday night to make sure the entire edge of the fire is secure. It was the last planned night shift.

Extensive mop-up work remains in the interior, some on very tough ground. The remaining work will be completed during the course of the next few days.

A significant change in the evacuation level has gone into effect. The evacuation level for the four cabins on East Creek Road has been reduced from Level 3 (evacuate!) to Level 1 (be ready to evacuate!). Those cabins were unoccupied when the fire was reported at 5 p.m. last Wednesday.

Landowners will be allowed to access their property. Level 1 evacuation means that homeowners should be prepared to evacuate, long before the threat arises. They are encouraged to assemble emergency supplies and have a plan for how they would escape if necessary.

For information on the evacuation program, visit www.wildlandfirersg.org.

Resources dedicated to the fire number 16 hand crews, 11 engines, four bulldozers, 12 water tenders, one helicopter and more than 250 personnel. It's estimated about $860,000 has been spent fighting the fire.

(Updated: 11:30 a.m. Sunday)

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire remains at 20 percent contained, but has climbed from 212 to 230 acres, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported Sunday morning.

Winds over the fire Saturday  were minimal which helped firefighters make good progress on containment.

During the day, crews focused on reinforcing the lines by hand and with bulldozers,  and running hose around the entire fire perimeter. Tree fallers  worked in the fire area removing hazard trees and snags in order to help keep firefighters safe.

Hand-held infrared cameras were used Saturday  night to locate and mark hot spots along the fire perimeter that need to be mopped up. Nearly 30,000 feet of hose has been installed in the fire area which fire crews will be using to continue mopping up 100 percent of the fire.

The fire area remains closed to public access. Roads are very narrow with few turnouts. Rolling debris and downed trees add to traffic hazards.

One road block is in place on Willamina Creek Road, north of the junction with Coast Creek Road.

Another road block is in place at the northern junction of Willamina Creek and East Creek roads near Peavine Road.

Yamhill County CERT volunteers are staffing the road blocks, ensuring that non-fire related traffic is not allowed to drive into the fire zone.

Total personnel assigned to the fire numbers 266 , in addition to multiple pieces of equipment, on land and in the air, that has been on scene day and night.

The estimated cost of fighting this fire is $650,000.

The weather forecast for today calls for hot and dry conditions in the fire zone with the potential for gusty winds in the afternoon. Cooler temperatures are expected to return Monday.

Temperatures today should be between 86 and 89 degrees with 28 to 33 percent humidity.

(Updated: 9 p.m. Saturday

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire remains at 212 acres with containment improving to 20 percent, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry's Saturday night update.

Heavy smoke over the fire area helped to keep the temperatures lower than expected Saturday, which allowed crews to make good progress on reinforcing containment lines.

In the absence of the gusty winds experienced the last couple days, the fire did not grow at all day.

Tree falling crews worked in the fire area Saturday, dropping hazard trees and snags which posed a threat to firefighters working below. Fire crews are still facing risks from rolling debris, snags and bees which require them to be ever vigilant about safety.

Crews will be continuing to work on mopping up the fire, working from the perimeter into the interior. The ultimate goal is to have the entire fire area mopped up 100%. A hand-held infrared camera will be used overnight to identify hot spots which could lead to embers escaping the fireline if not extinguished.

Members of the Yamhill County's CERT program are volunteering their time to staff the road block on Willamina Creek Road. The road block is in place to keep fire crews and the public safe and the CERT volunteers efforts will help ensure this.

The forecast for Sunday calls for more hot and dry conditions with gusty winds. Temperatures will be 85-90 degrees with humidity between 29 and 34%.

Wildland resources assigned to the fire include (day and night shifts): 16 hand crews, 11 engines, 4 dozers, 12 water tenders, and overhead personnel.

Four cabins along East Creek Road remain under a Level 3 evacuation. Willamina Creek Road and East Creek Road are closed north of the junction with Coast Creek Road.

(Updated: 9 a.m. Saturday)

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire has grown to an estimated 212 acres, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported Saturday morning. There is 15 percent containment.

Crews conducted a burnout operation Friday morning in the southeast corner of the fire to remove unburned fuel and create a stronger fire break around some of the most challenging areas of the fire.

Firefighters working during the day Friday focused efforts on strengthening these lines. Westerly winds in the afternoon again challenged firefighters, this time on the north side of the fire.

Fire managers ordered additional air support and were able to utilize assistance from an additional medium helicopter and three single-engine air tankers. The aerial support helped make a big difference in cooling down hot spots.

Overnight, crews worked to strengthen the lines around the spots using hose lays and hand lines. Containment has been completed around the perimeter of the fire and crews hope to able to hold containment during Saturday's weather change.

It is expected to be warmer and drier with gusty dry winds coming out of the northeast. Crews will be focusing on securing lines that were the most active Friday. Mop-up has begun around the entire fire with a goal of having the fire 100 percent mopped up.

Fire managers remind the public that the fire area is closed to public access and a road block is in place on Willamina Creek Road north of the junction with Coast Creek Road. Access to the fire area is through a series of narrow roads with few turnouts.

These roads are experiencing high traffic with fire crews, engines and tenders. The public should not access these roads.

(Updated: 7 p.m. Friday)

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire remained at 140 acres with 10 percent containment throughout the day, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

While the fire remains under investigation, it is believed to have been human caused, possibly by recreational activities.

ODF continues to get reports of the use of exploding targets in the forest. The public is reminded that exploding targets, tracer rounds and sky laterns are prohibited under current conditions.

The agency requests that recreational target shooters voluntarily stop by 1 p.m. each day, and check all backstops and shooting areas for any smoke or possible fire starts.

Target shooters are encouraged to stay on site for at least an hour afterward to ensure that no fires have started as a result of their activities.

(Updated: 10:30 a.m. Friday)

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire has now burned 140 acres and is 10 percent contained, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported this morning.

An increase in onshore winds late Thursday afternoon pushed the fire towards the southeast, outside of the containment line that had been constructed.

Overnight, crews worked to reestablish and strengthen containment lines around that portion of the fire.

Winds calmed, temperatures dropped and humidity increased overnight, which helped crews in their efforts.

Today's goal is to have a line built around the entire fire and mop-up well under way by the end of the day.

Fire managers want to have strong containment lines complete before the weather change, which is expected on Saturday.

Forecasted weather for today is similar to yesterday - onshore breezes with cooler temperatures and higher humidity.

Temperatures today are predicted to be between 69 and 72 degrees with humidity between 50 and 55 percent. Looking to Saturday, hot and dry conditions with northeast winds will return.

Wildland resources assigned to the fire include (day and night shifts): 12 hand crews, 11 engines, four bulldozers, 12 water tenders and overhead personnel - 1 type-2 helicopteer. Total personnel numbers 226.

Willamina Creek Road and East Creek Road are closed north of Coast Creek Road.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

(Updated: 4 a.m. Friday)

WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire has now burned 120 acres and is 10 percent contained, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported late Thursday night.

Fire managers are feeling optimistic about progress made Thursday on the fire.

Work the night shift completed Wednesday night set Thursday's day shift up for a productive day.

Crews working by hand, aided by bulldozers and a helicopter, continued to build and strengthen a fireline around the fire.

Cooler marine air lowered temperatures which helped moderate the fire behavior.

A period of higher winds in the early evening Thursday challenged containment lines leading to a few hot spots.

The night shift crews were working to contain those hot spots Thursday night.

Mop-up work has begun on portions of the fireline.

Willamina Creek Road and East Creek Road are closed north of Coast Creek Road.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

(Updated: 11:30 a.m. Thursday)

 WILLAMINA - The Willamina Creek Fire, burning nine miles north of Willamina in the area of East Creek Road, which intersects with Willamina Creek Road, grew to 100 acres overnight and was only five percent contained early Thursday morning.

It is burning in heavy fuels on private and Bureau of Land Management timberland.

Firefighters from multiple agencies - Oregon Department of Forestry West Oregon District, Dayton, Dundee and McMinnville fire departments, and the Sheridan and West Valley fire districts - responded Wednesday afternoon to the five-alarm blaze that erupted on ODF-protected land.

The fire was first reported about 5 p.m. Initially, the blaze was believed to be burning northwest of Sheridan, off Rock Creek Road. It was reported to be about two acres in size. Sheridan fire equipment and personnel responded.

However, it was quickly determined that the location was north of Willamina. At that point, West Valley fire equipment and personnel were called out.

The fire quickly crew to more than 20 acres, at which time other Yamhill County agencies began responding.

Shortly after 7 p.m., it was estimated that 40 acres were burning. Spot fires were also being reported. A strong wind was blowing, and it was occasionally changing directions.

The ODF and Yamhill County Sheriff's Office ordered Level III evacuations for a few residences on East Creek Road, according to ODF spokesperson Jeri Chase.

This level indicates danger in the area is imminent, and evacuation is ordered immediately. Individuals who ignore this warning are advised to understand that emergency services may not be available to provide further assistance. Residents are advised not to delay in leaving, gathering belongings or trying to protect their property.

There were four unoccupied cabins on East Creek Road. However, homeowners would not have been allowed to check on their residences if they so desired. None of those structures sustained any damage.

A helicopter began dropping water on the fire in the early stages of the blaze. Another helicopter was requested, and it arrived from Eugene.

"Bulldozer and hand lines were dug, starting when crews first got the call," ODF spokesman Jen Warren said. "They're trying to get those lines tied together this morning (Thursday). They're cutting a break between the fire and potential fuels."

Warren also said three single-engine air tankers also dropped one load of retardant apiece on the fire before darkness set in Wednesday night.

Seven hand crews, five engines, four bulldozers, 16 water tenders and 191 personnel were initially on the fire line.

"With fires burning all over the west, our resources are stretched pretty thin," she said.

Yamhill County Fire Chief John Stock, who doubles as the Dundee Fire Chief, said it's the hope of everyone involved in this fire fighting effort that the "weather cooperates" in the coming days.

Today's weather is predicted to be cooler with higher humidity than Wednesday, which fire officials hope will assist crews with making progress on the fire.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the 74 to 81-degree range and 36 to 50 percent humidity.

Friday's forecast calls for a high temperature of  75 degrees

However, another warmup is expected this weekend, with the forecast calling for a high of 90 Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

 

 

Comments

Dwaine

To close to home. My family has a cabin there.

gogetajob

May god protect all the firefighters out there.

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