Chetco Bar fire explodes; residents told to evacuate along Highway 101
Updated at 1:45 p.m.: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved federal funding to aid firefighting and life-saving effort costs at the Chetco Bar fire in Curry County.
The federal grant, called Fire Management Assistance Grant, will reimburse 75 percent of Oregon’s eligible costs in controlling, managing and mitigating efforts, according to the news release.
Curry County residents living along Highway 101 north of Brookings were warned to evacuate their homes Sunday after the Chetco Bar Fire made a westward run toward the coast.
The Level 3 immediate evacuation order was issued at 5 p.m. Sunday for residents living along Highway 101 and east to Carpenterville Road starting just north of Brookings to the Pistol River area. Crews were going door to door to order immediate evacuations along Carpenterville Road, which runs about mile east of Highway 101.
Residents along Carpenterville Road, as well as those who live to the east and west of the road, were urged to pack up their belongings and leave immediately, said Curry County Sheriff John Ward. Residents along Highway 101 were told they should evacuate as a precautionary move.
An estimated 3,000 people have been urged to leave their homes.
The evacuation order came after strong winds pushed the fire to the south and the west, ballooning the burned area to about 92,000 acres and turning day into dusk in coastal cities. More than 400 firefighters are battling the blaze.
Fire officials say they've received reports of some structures being burned. Trees on fire were reported this morning along North Bank Chetco River Road about two or three miles east of Loeb State Park. Gardner Ridge Road and North Bank Chetco River Road are closed to all but fire crews.
The evacuation order does not include the city of Brookings or Gold Beach, and Highway 101 from Brookings to Gold Beach remained open. The Red Cross was staffing an emergency evacuation shelter at Riley Creek Elementary in Gold Beach.
A community meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Azalea Middle School, 505 Pacific Ave., Brookings.
By late afternoon Sunday, the fire was believed to have reached the Miller Bar, about two or three miles above Loeb State Park and 12 miles from the city of Brookings, which is not under evacuation.
An immediate evacuation order remained in place for residents living in the area encompassing North Bank Chetco River Road from Da-tone Rock (Joe Hall Creek) to Wilderness Retreat, and South Bank Chetco River Road from Shady to Mt. Emily Road. There are an estimated 1,500 homes in that area.
The Curry Coastal Pilot reported on Sunday afternoon that "the ceiling of thick smoke over Brookings and Harbor had turned the day into premature twilight. The street lights along Chetco Avenue came on as ash continued to fall in many places."
Below is information about the Chetco Bar fire posted on inciweb.com, the incident information system manned by various fire agencies:
Current Situation: Strong winds yesterday and overnight pushed the fire to the south and west. The present perimeter of the fire is in the vicinity of Nook Bar west to Ransom Ridge and north to Bosley Butte. Structure protection equipment will focus their work around homes. Unstable atmospheric conditions seen for the past several days will ease as a different weather pattern moves into the area. An infrared flight estimated the size at 91,551 acres. There will be significant smoke this weekend in the Brookings and Harbor area as a result of the fire. Air quality will fluctuate between “moderate” and “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Brookings. For more information about air quality, please visit the Oregon Smoke Blog: http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/
Closures: An area closure is in effect in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in addition to the trail closures in place. Before you head out into the woods this weekend pleases check Inciweb or the Rouge River Siskiyou National Forest (RRSNF) homepage for all closure orders including those that pertain to the Chetco Bar Fire.
Safety Message: Due to mandatory evacuations and heavy fire traffic travelers are encouraged to avoid highway 101. As the eclipse approaches and traffic in the area significantly increases, please keep yourself and others safe. August is peak wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest. A small spark can rapidly become a large fire. Know fire risks and respect fire restrictions, such as campfire bans. Tread lightly and leave no trace. Leave your site better than you found it.