Video Update from Incident Commander Bob Johnson Pacific Northwest Team 11
The Type 2 Northwest Incident Management Team 11 led by Incident Commander Bob Johnson took over management of the Oregon Lakes Fire on May 21, 2019.
This remote fire was reported at about 1 p.m. on April 30th and has been burning predominantly in the Oregon Lakes Impact Area, an area that is unsafe for firefighters and low-flying fire suppression aircraft due to the likelihood of unexploded ordinance on the ground. It is burning mostly in downed trees from the 2013 Mississippi Fire and tall, dry grass and on the west side of the Delta River.
It is in a limited protection area about 11 miles southwest of Delta Junction and is not immediately threatening any structures, military targets or valuable resources. However, because it is burning in the Delta River drainage with known challenging weather patterns that could cause the fire to persist throughout the summer, the team was activated to come up with short- and long-term plans to launch suppression tactics once the fire moves out of the military impact areas.
Fire Managers and representatives from state and federal agencies decided to redirect firefighters from building and defending firelines within the Oregon Lakes Impact Area to reduce risk to firefighters. Military debris, some of which is dangerous, remains in and near the Impact Area, which has been in use for more than 50 years. Firefighter safety is the top priority.
Firefighter crews from the Oregon Lakes Fire have arrived in the Whitestone Farms, Southbank and Richardson Clearwater River communities. Additional equipment will be air-dropped today. Crews will begin structure protection today and also look for locations where contingency fire lines could be constructed. Crews will protect structures at Rainbow Lake.
The crews providing structure protection now are the same crews that protected structures from the Mississippi Fire in 2013. Their local experience is a big advantage and will allow field operations to be conducted efficiently. Fire is not currently threatening the communities, but equipment will be installed and tested to help residents and property owners be prepared if fire becomes more active and moves north.
The IMT is continuing to work with the BLM Alaska Fire Service Military Fire Management Zone, the U.S. Army Alaska Garrison, the BLM Eastern Interior Field Office and the Alaska Division of Forestry (DOF) to determine the best course of action, especially with the forecasted warm and windy weather. The fire could grow to the north and threaten State of Alaska timber values along the Delta River and Delta Creek. It would need to first cross a shear blade line that was constructed as a fuel break in recent years.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.