Firefighters gain upper hand

Donnie Duncan of John Day coils up tangled lengths of fire hose on Aug. 1 during an afternoon of work at the Summit Prairie fire camp south of Prairie City. The Eagle/DAVID CARKHUFF

A disastrous, initial flurry of forest fires in Eastern Oregon has gradually yielded to the hard work of firefighters.

The Flagtail/Malheur Complex near Seneca and Prairie City, respectively, and the Monument Fire near Unity represent the region's largest forest fires. All told, by month's end they required 1,345 personnel, tasked with fighting lightning-caused blazes that burned on 51,378 acres.

Now, as August gets under way, fire managers report full containment for most of the region's fires. Malheur National Forest fires include the Flagtail Fire in Bear Valley, fully contained at 8,175 acres; High-Roberts Fire, a combination of the High Lakes and Roberts Creek fires in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, fully contained at 12,885 acres; and Easy Creek Fire near Dixie Summit, fully contained at 5,940 acres.

Eastern Oregon's largest fire, the Monument Fire near Unity, burned 24,378 acres and was 90 percent contained as of Aug. 5. Crews are mopping up and rehabilitating firelines as good weather holds, according to managers.

The 747 Fire, which ignited in the Black Canyon Wilderness northeast of Paulina, burned an estimated 16,500 acres before being contained.

Management teams have entered and exited the region as firefighters gained the upper hand on blazes.

The Pacific Northwest Team 3 handling the Monument Fire was assigned to the Umpqua Complex near Tiller as of Aug. 3. The Northeast Oregon Area Command, which oversaw the Flagtail/Malheur Complex fires, transitioned to a Blue Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team on Aug. 4.

Following are summaries of the fires (from the Northeast Oregon Area Command's fire update of Aug. 3; see www.fs.fed.us/r6/malheur):

Flagtail/Malheur Complex: High-Roberts, Flagtail, Easy Creek

Location: south and east of Prairie City

Total personnel: 1,143

Total acres: 27,000

Special information: The Malheur National Forest has lifted the area closure within the Flagtail Fire area. Road 16 to the south of the fire has been re-opened to public access, but roads north of road 16 still remain closed. Any visitors to fire camp at Summit Prairie should check in at the Fire Information Office. County Road 62 and other roads within the High Roberts and Easy Creek fire areas remain closed and fire restrictions remain in effect throughout the area. Flagtail Fire: 100 percent contained at 8,175 acres. The High Roberts Fire is currently estimated at 12,885 acres and is 95 percent contained. The Easy Creek Fire is currently estimated at 5,940 acres and is 100 percent contained.

Monument Fire

Location: Monument Rock Wilderness, 9 miles southwest of Unity.

Total personnel: 202

Total acres: 24,378

Estimated containment: 90 percent.

Special information: There is still some smoke coming from the fire area, mostly in the northwest corner of the fire. This smoke is from unburned "islands" is the fire area. These catch on fire and burn up remaining fuel within the boundary. This is typical in a fire this large and should pose no concern.

Other information (from www.nartc.net/pnw_team3/monumentfire): The fire cost an estimated $5.8 million by the end of July. Expected containment date is Oct. 1. Personnel on this fire included the military battalion from Fort Riley, which has shifted to the Tiller Complex near Roseburg. In July, there were 1,233 people assigned to the Monument Fire, using 32 crews, six helicopters, 21 engines, 13 bulldozers, 11 water tenders and three camp crews.

747 Fire

Location: Black Canyon Wilderness, northeast of Paulina

Total Personnel: 30

Total Acres: 16,500

Containment: 100 percent

Crews are monitoring and conducting mop-up.

Other fires (from www.nifc.gov):

Sour Biscuit (Siskiyou National Forest): 40,082 acres at 27 percent contained. This fire is burning on both sides of the California-Oregon border, 17 miles southwest of Cave Junction. Dozer and handline construction is under way along the ridge above the Illinois River Valley. Crews are improving and constructing fireline, mopping up and cold trailing on several divisions.

Timbered Rock (Central Oregon District, Oregon Department of Forestry): 25,675 acres at 45 percent contained. This fire is 15 miles north of Shady Cove. A successful burnout was conducted, and residents of Upper Elk Creek and along Sugar Pine Road were allowed to return to their homes. Several residences and outbuildings are threatened.

Florence (Siskiyou National Forest): 198,240 acres at 5 percent contained. This fire is 26 miles southwest of Grants Pass. The Illinois River Valley is under a 24 hour evacuation advisory; 3,400 residences and 250 commercial properties are threatened. Six miles of fireline were successfully burned out on the east portion of the fire.

Tool Box Complex (Fremont National Forest): 120,085 acres at 90 percent contained. This complex, comprised of the Tool Box, Silver, Lava and Winter fires, is approximately ten miles south of Silver Lake. Crews made good progress improving containment lines and mopping up. Fireline rehabilitation is underway and containment is expected tomorrow.

Tiller Complex (Umpqua National Forest): 29,539 acres at 25 percent contained. This complex is on the Tiller Ranger District and in the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness Area, east of Tiller. Crews are building indirect and direct fireline, burnout out where appropriate, and scouting for new fire starts.

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