Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

About 400 people filled the Brookings-Harbor High School gym Sunday night to get an update from officials on the Chetco Bar Fire that had burned about 108,000 acres and was about five miles east of Brookings.

The first piece of news was the expansion of the existing Level 3 evacuation order (leave immediately) to include areas along Carpenterville Road which lie north of Bosley Butte Road along Summit Ridge and north to Sundown Mountain. The expansion was triggered by significant fire growth on the western flank of the fire today, caused by warm, dry windy weather. The area of Myers Creek is now under a Level 2 evacuation order (be set to go).

Residents can find out if their home is in an evacuation area online at: https://tinyurl.com/Aug27EvacUpdate

Weather wasn't a big factor on the southwestern flank of the fire, closer to Brookings, where firefighters continued to build direct and indirect fire lines, while helicopters took advantage of less smoke to drop water and retardant.

There was some fire growth on the north and east flanks of the fire in steep, inaccessible terrain, making it less of a priority, officials said.

As of Sunday, there were 1,600 firefighters battling the fire. The support team consists of 75 people.

Highlights of the meeting:

*Officials will hold public meetings in early September to discuss the origin, development and actions taken to address the fire since it was spotted July 12.

*Brookings and Harbor remain in Level 1 evacuation (be ready) as do areas along the Winchuck River.

*The Chetco Bar Fire, one of 42 fires burning in Oregon and Washington, remains the nation's “top priority wildfire.”

*Of the 19,200 personnel fighting fires in the nation, 1,600 (about 8 percent) are fighting the Chetco Bar Fire.

*Six structures have been destroyed.

*No deaths have been reported.

*Injuries to firefighters has been limited to heat exhaustion.

*The current plan is “to put a box around the fire,” with a priority on protecting the inhabited areas in Brookings, Harbor and along Highway 101 to the north.

*Efforts are focused on slowing the fire using dozers and hand crews to clear fire lines close to the flames and secondary lines farther away, thus starving the fire of fuel.

*Structure protection crews have “triaged” more than 1,000 homes (determining how defensible or not each home is). As of Sunday, at least 500 homes had been prepared, which includes moving wood piles and vegetation away from homes, and clearing debris from rain gutters and roofs. Firefighters will try to protect homes deemed indefensible, as long as it is safe to do so.

*Curry County Sheriff John Ward said Oregon National Guard troops were manning checkpoints in and out of evacuation areas and patrolling the areas “keeping an eye out for any riff-raff.”

*A Red Cross official reminded people about the shelter at Riley Creek Elementary School in Gold Beach and said the organization has begun focusing on long-term recovery for people who's homes were damaged or destroyed by the fire.

*A Carpenterville resident asked why super tankers were not being used to dump ocean water on the fire to put it out. Incident Commander Noel Livingston explained that water and retardant will only slow the fire, not put it out, and ground crews building fire lines are necessary to contain the flames and let the fire burn itself out.

*The red retardant dropped on the fire contains fertilizers that dampen the flames. The red dye helps pilots see where they have dropped retardant and plan for the next drop.

*If Brookings and Harbor needed to be evacuated, how much time would residents have? Sheriff Ward and Brookings City Manager said the goal would be 72 hours and the minimum would be 24 hours, but there are no guarantees.*

*Magers said most of the fire growth is caused by embers flying ahead of the flames and causing spot fires. That's why it is important to clean cutters and roofs, and keep clear space around homes.

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