Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

Fire officials Tuesday described the behavior of the Chetco Bar Fire burning near Brookings as “smoldering, backing, and creeping,” but otherwise not threatening any more structures or prompting any evacuations.

At the same, time a new wildfire was reported Monday on the northeast border of Curry and Josephine counties.

“Firefighters on all sides of the fire have been actively engaged, prioritizing safety and operational effectiveness,” according to an update released Tuesday by Inciweb fire officials.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Chetco Bar Fire had burned about 185,000 acres. There was about 1,500 fire personnel battling the fire.

Monday’s relatively warm, dry weather, gusty northeast winds and lack of marine layer along the coast spurred the fire to burn more in scattered areas from the Pistol River to east of the Winchuck River.

Fire crews aided by water and retardant-dropping aircraft successfully halted the fire’s progress, especially in the area southwest of Mount Emily (near Forest Service Road No. 1107) and Wheeler Creek area northeast of the Winchuck River area.

Cooler temperatures and less wind is forecast for today (Sept. 13), which will allow aircraft to drop water and retardant on the fire and slow its activity on the south and west flanks.

Contingency lines will continue to be constructed, and crews will take advantage of favorable weather to contain and hold firelines closest to areas with the highest values at risk, officials said.

After several days of clearer skies, more smoke appeared Tuesday as it moved down valleys into communities on the north and west sides of the fire.

Light northeast winds Tuesday pushed moderate smoke into Brookings and Gold Beach. Inland, Cave Junction and Medford will continue to see moderate to heavy smoke throughout the day.

Cooler temperatures and fog on the coast Wednesday and Thursday will help suppress fire activity and smoke in Gold Beach and Brookings.

New fire

A new wildfire named the Indigo Fire was discovered Monday 10 miles north of the Chetco Bar Fire Monday and is slowly burning at 125 acres, fire officials said.

The fire is on the border of Curry and Josephine counties, east of Agness, near Indigo Creek.

Officials did not say what started the new wildfire. They considered using smoke-jumpers and rappellers to access it, but like the Chetco Bar Fire, steep, inaccessible terrain was deemed to be too dangerous.

Helicopters from the Chetco Bar Fire were diverted to the Indigo fire and spent four hours dropping water before darkness fell Monday. Three firefighter and two dozer crews are building access and containment lines.

The Indigo Fire is burning in brush and light timber within the Biscuit Fire burn scar.

“The response to the Indigo Fire is very similar to the initial response to many of the fires burning in Southern Oregon,” according to fire report. “The goal for every one of these fires is full and complete suppression. However, the number one priority and consideration of every fire is firefighter safety. Fire managers will never risk firefighters’ lives when determining the best course of action to put out a fire.”

On Monday, fire crews scouted locations near Buckskin Peak and continued linking and extending dozer line sections on the east flank of the fire. Tuesday, crews worked on a rocky ridge between Parker and Josephine creeks. Handline work continues around Tennessee Mountain. Dozers continue to push fireline construction farther north into the Chrome Ridge and Silver Creek areas.

A firefighter spike camp is being established in the area, as well. Spike camps allow firefighters to rest, eat and resupply without having to travel long distances to the main fire camp.

Aircraft are being used when possible to support firefighters on the ground by slowing the fire’s spread and giving personnel time to build direct and indirect fire lines. Aircraft can’t be used, however, when there is too much smoke in the air or in adverse weather conditions.