|Firefighters get upper hand on Curry County wildfire|
|Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer|
|June 12, 2014 10:23 am|
A sudden change in the weather and an aggressive attack were credited for helping firefighters contain the Euchre Creek Fire to 80 percent as of Thursday morning.
The fire, which began around noon Wednesday — the first day of the 2014 wildfire season — had spread to 56 acres by the following morning; crews had completely surrounded it with fire line.
“The crews did an outstanding job in getting to the fire as fast as they did,” said Curry County Sheriff John Bishop. “The fire should be a reminder that fire season is here, and it could be one of the worse we have seen due to the conditions. I ask that everyone be extra careful.”
The fire apparently started on South Coast Lumber property and rapidly burned up a steep hillside about 4 miles east of Highway 101 near Ophir. Aerial tankers carrying water and retardant were quickly en route from Douglas County, fire crews from South Coast Lumber and the U.S. Forest Service were gathered and tankers from Coos Forest Protective Association headed down the road.
Wildland fires are typically caused by human activity or lightning strikes, according to Coos Forest Protective Association, which fights most of the large fires in Southern Oregon.
Officials said that had the fire occurred later in the summer, resources might not have been as rapidly deployed to the area, depending on the needs in other areas of the state — an issue that is increasingly brought up in federal legislative discussion.
Currently, the U.S. Forest Service spends 40 percent of its budget on firefighting, compared to 15 percent in the early 1990s.
This year, the agency expects to spend about $1.5 billion on fire suppression, and will probably overrun the fire budget by close to $500 million, according to a report released by the Department of the Interior. To keep up, the agency transfers funds from other forest management programs — including those intended to be spent on reducing fire danger.
Bishop worries about his already tight budget, as well.
“I have to pull road deputies off of patrol when we have a fire to help with road closures, evacuations and any other requirements we may have,” he said. “It often leads to 80-hour work weeks sometimes, and the overtime will kill what budget we do have.”
Reducing fire danger is among the goals of two federal legislative plans making their way through Congress, and of the newly-named Wild Rivers Coast Healthy Forest Collaborative, started by County Commissioner David Itzen. The 100-stakeholder group is taking a holistic look at the forest and hopes to get loggers back in the woods, entice new business related to the wood industry to the area and improve the health of forests and streams.