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Crews tackle chain of wildfires across Oregon

Firefighters watching distant smoke.
Wildfire observers look at the smoke pillars generated by the Bedrock Fire. They can monitor a fire's progress and also help coordinate response efforts.

Fire suppression operations continue against the Bedrock Fire and the neighboring Salmon Fire, both in the Willamette National Forest.

Kurt Ranta is in charge of field operations for both incidents. In a Wednesday briefing, he said teams have been making progress on the north side of the Bedrock Fire.

Kurt Ranta gives the Aug. 9, 2023 update on the Bedrock and Salmon fires.
Video on Bedrock 2023's Facebook page.
Kurt Ranta gives the Aug. 9, 2023 update on the Bedrock and Salmon fires.

“This fire along here’s looking very good, along the top in He He Creek drainage, hasn’t moved in a long time, at least since the team’s been here,” said Ranta. “The next operation for the next few days, we do have some line established out here in the northeast corner of the fire. They have hand line, dozer line, road systems that they intend to use to burn out off of in a few days.”

At last check, the Bedrock Fire was at 14,264 acres and 5% contained.

The Salmon Fire – which started August 6th - is at 102 acres and is uncontained. A Level 1 “Stand by” evacuation notice has been issued for the Oakridge area.

Poor air quality will also be a hazard

Smoke levels from regional wildfires will challenge residents across central and eastern Oregon the next few days.

Greg Mortensen is the air resource advisor trainee for the Bedrock Fire. In his briefing, he said moderate to heavy smoke will plague Oakridge and neighboring communities. He said levels will be moderate in the mornings, but then worsen by afternoon.

“You may get into some ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ or even ‘unhealthy’ air quality as that smoke drifts in, and then clearing out again to evening and overnight,” warned Mortensen.

The McKenzie Highway Corridor will have intermittent smoke, with “good” to “moderate” conditions.

People with respiratory issues, infants, and the elderly are most vulnerable to heavy smoke. N-95 face masks and air purifiers are advised while wildfire season continues into the fall.

Map showing area near Wiley Fire.
Linn Co. Sheriff's Facebook page
The Linn County Sheriff's Office shared a map showing areas that are on Level 2 Evacuation Notice.

Wiley Fire’s perimeter expected to expand in challenging terrain

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office says the Wiley Fire prompted Level 2 evacuation notices for nearby communities Tuesday night. That means “GET SET” for immediate departure.

As of today, the Wiley Fire is at 150 acres. It’s burning east of Sweet Home and is expected to grow as firefighters work to get a foothold in less steep terrain.

An incident commander says they’re prioritizing firefighter safety, and crews have been strategically working to contain the Wiley Fire on its north and south sides.

Meanwhile, a closure order for Green Peter Reservoir remains in effect. Aircraft are using its water for bucket drops.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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