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Fire activity potential increases with shifting wind conditions

Photo courtesy of Douglas Forest Protective Association | The Flournoy Valley fire burned 7.5 acres of dry grass and brush Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021.

Shifting wind conditions increased potential for fire activity in the Rough Patch and Devil’s Knob complexes Sunday, following a series of wind-fueled dry grass fires that engaged Douglas Forest Protective Association crews and local fire departments throughout Saturday afternoon.

DFPA and the Glide rural fire department responded to a grass fire spreading behind a residence two miles west of Glide around noon Saturday. Firefighters contained the blaze within one-tenth of an acre and determined an escaped burn barrel sparked the fire.

According to DFPA, the responsible individual was cited and “will likely be billed for fire suppression costs” associated with the Wild River Drive fire.

DFPA prohibits debris pile burning and the use of burn barrels this fire season.

During mop up on the Wild River Drive fire, a second fire was reported eight miles northwest of Winston, spreading through a dry field of grass and brush. Firefighters from DFPA, Lookingglass rural fire department and Douglas County Fire District 2 took over for residents attempting to control the blaze and contained it at 7.5 acres.

A preliminary investigation indicates the Flournoy Valley fire was caused by a tree hitting power lines.

Around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, reports of a smoke column visible from Interstate 5 mile marker 112 drew crews from DFPA, Myrtle Creek rural fire department and Winston-Dillard fire department to a quarter-acre grass and brush fire off Dole Road. Gusting winds pushed the fire up a hillside, burning blackberry, dry grass and poison oak.

Firefighters contained the Dole Road fire at two acres and remained on scene to mop up and secure lines until 7:15 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Riddle rural fire department and Douglas County Fire District 2 assisted at the scene.

In the Devil’s Knob complex, containment lines improved or held along the northwest edge of the 17,107-acre Smith fire and western perimeter of the 13,795-acre Big Hamlin fire. Burnout activities were planned for the fires’ south and southeast flanks Sunday.

The complex has burned 32,391 acres and was 25% contained at the time of the incident management team’s Sunday morning update. The Dismal Creek, Little Applegate, Mule Creek, Section 30 and Wild Cat fires are fully contained and remain under patrol.

Hot and dry weather conditions contributed to “high potential for increased fire activity” Sunday — potentially moderated by smoke, according to the Florida Red incident management team.

Crews prepared the north side of the 16,539-acre Chaos fire in the Rough Patch complex for burnout operations — weather and fuel conditions permitting — and assessed structural protection needs near the Bohemia mine Sunday.

Firefighters continued efforts to improve containment lines south toward the 6,717-acre Little Bend fire in pursuit of a goal to secure the southern end of the Chaos fire into the western edge of the Little Bend fire this week.

Overall, activity in the complex's major fires was minimal Saturday, emergency managers said. The 23,884-acre Jack fire is contained on three sides.

“Much of the fire growth was due to indirect burning operations conducted as a tactic to secure the fires’ perimeters in areas where direct suppression tactics posed a risk to firefighter safety,” according to Northern Rockies incident management Team 1.

Crews focused on the northwest and southern parts of the Near Minky fire Sunday, in a joint strategy between Northern Rockies Team 1 and the Florida Red Team to limit western spread of the Near Minky and Smith fires using shared resources.

Weather conditions increased potential for fire activity in the Rough Patch complex, with northeast winds expected to switch to northwest Sunday afternoon.