By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) reported firefighters had gained considerable ground Monday night on the Lobster Creek Fire.

ODF Public Information Officer Tom Fields said a report from an air observer Tuesday reported, “Things look really good. The fire hasn’t changed much and is holding its footprint.”

More crews are coming in with hose lays and are beginning to “mop up” some areas, according to Fields.

Crews are focusing on the area where Lobster and Falls creeks meet and trying to trap it in that drainage, he said. “They are holding on and taking no chances with the wind.”

ODF reported the fire remained at 446 acres. Other containment numbers were unavailable.

Fields said the priority for Tuesday was to connect fire lines and surround the fire. Crews had attempted to do so Monday night, but high winds around 3 a.m. caused some spotting and crews had to react.

Crews were mopping up areas on the north end of the fire, had laid nearly 25,000 feet of hose and were working in on the flanks, Fields said.

He urged residents to see this fire as a reminder of what the smallest spark can do here and added people should obey all local fire ordinances.

The ODF incident management team relieved the Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA) crews Monday evening.

The CFPA and other agencies had crews making good progress during the day Monday, according to CFPA’s Jef Chase.

He said they had 150 firefighters on the line and three helicopters working the blaze, and there was no risk to structures at that time.

ODF said they would send in 450 firefighters and would use six helicopters, three retardant-dropping airplanes, three bulldozers, five engines and five water tenders.

The Lobster Creek Fire has been determined to be human-caused and remains under investigation, according to Curry County Sheriff John Ward.

The fire was caused by humans in or near the Lobster Creek Youth Camp, Ward said, and his deputies had taped off the camp entrance and were continuing to investigate.

He added fire investigators called in by the Coos Forest Protective Association were also investigating the Lobster Creek Fire Tuesday, but had not determined the cause of the blaze.

Advisors and youth from the Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp who were camping at Lobster Creek were evacuated.

The camp was hosted by the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) and Rogue Climate.

Ward said deputies attempted to interview members of the group but upon advice from their attorney, they did not provide detailed answers about how the fire started, although it was evident they attempted to extinguish the fire initially.

Deputies were provided very basic information from a few campers on what they saw and efforts to extinguish the fire.

The group said they “saw smoke and then a fire,” sheriff’s department Capt. Mick Espinoza said, adding that that was all they were willing to say.

Rogue Climate Director Hannah Sohl, one of the organizers of the youth camp, said, “A grass fire occurred near Lobster Creek Youth Camp. We are thankful to the first responders who assisted us in safely evacuating all of our youth and staff and who continue to fight the fire.”

The CLDC, the camp’s other sponsor, did not respond to requests for comment.

Ward said, “I have to give credit for the fast response of our local CFPA and fire agencies along with the logging companies. They got on top of the situation and saved the Lobster Creek Youth Camp from destruction.

“I want to commend our sheriff’s dispatch for getting and giving the information out quickly, coordinating resources to combat the fire and our deputies who were first on scene and safely evacuated the camp of about 50 people.”

4-H agent Margie House announced they would be canceling Curry County 4-H Camp. Registration reimbursements will be processed in full and mailed to the address indicated on the registration form within 7-10 business days.

“We are hoping for the best possible outcome and will keep you informed of any changes to our summer schedule,” she added.

Curry County Parks Director Josh Hopkins said the parks department has been actively contacting other camp facilities in the area trying to help campers find other venues.

“The hope is the fire is out quickly and the camp can resume activity shortly thereafter,” he said.

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