Wildland firefighters are working to snuff the last in a series of Southern Oregon fires sparked by a lightning storm in late July.
The 790 fire, burning 10 miles southeast of Prospect near Shale Butte, has grown to 2,211 acres and was 11 percent contained Monday. More than 560 personnel are trying to stop its spread, though fire officials say the surrounding terrain is helping. Rocky outcroppings and wet areas near lakes and streams are a welcome change from the usual slash piles and dry terrain that hasten a wildfire's growth.
"The weather has been helping, too," said Jeannie Klein, public information officer with Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 2.
A decrease in wildfire activity throughout Southern Oregon is one of the reasons the 790 fire, which has burned for more than a month, is finally getting more attention. When the July 30 storm popped up, dozens of others also reared their heads across the region, including the Oregon Gulch fire that grew to more than 35,000 acres over about a week's time and destroyed six homes.
For responding crews, the key to a successful attack plan centered around prioritization and utilizing resources effectively. Fire 790 was low on the to-do list because of its slow growth and because it never threatened any structures.
"Some of the other fires were higher priority just because of where they are," Klein said. "There were also not as many people, and resources and crews."
Close to 440 firefighters are living in simple, temporary camps in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. They are parked around Fire 790's perimeter, close to the fireline, which is burning in steep rugged terrain that is difficult to access. On Sunday, fire crews used mules to deliver supplies and move campsites as the work shifts. Helicopters also continue to drop buckets of water on the flames, which officials said has been effective at slowing their growth. Mobile pump/tank combination modules were also flown into the wilderness area and received refills via helicopter to reduce the amount of water pulled from lakes already taxed by this summer's drought.
An estimated date of full containment was not available.
Because of firefighting activity, the Pacific Crest Trail remains closed from Crater Lake National Park's southern boundary south to Highway 140. Several additional trails in the Sky Lakes Wilderness close to the flames are also closed. Daily information on the closures can be seen online at www.pcta.org.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.