Firefighters are working this week through the burn scar of the Lobster Creek Fire 14 miles northeast of Gold Beach, extinguishing hot spots and smoldering embers.
The 397-acre fire started July 1 in the county-owned Lobster Creek Youth Campground, which was rented out to a group of about 20 adults and 20 youth for environmental activist training. The group said “we saw smoke and then we saw fire,” according to Curry County Sheriff John Ward.
So far, the fire is estimated to have cost more than $2 million.
According to the Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA), dangerous trees will be identified and felled, and soil disturbed by the fire has loosened up rocks that continue to roll off the steep slopes and onto roads.
The fire is not spreading or smoking, yet the area is still not safe to enter, fire officials said.
CFPA officials know people are interesting in touring the Lobster Creek Fire area, but asks they stay away for now, as the agency’s top priority is still firefighter and public safety.
Smokes and hotspots
Wildfires often appear to have been extinguished after lying dormant for a long, cold winter, but hotspots can lurk in the soil or deep in roots and flare up again when the temperatures go back up, according to Jefrey Chase of the Oregon Department of Forestry.
That has already happened this summer in the burn scar of last year’s Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, which burned almost 50,000 acres and cost more than $37 million to extinguish.
“Hotspots are not uncommon in heavy fuels like logs and organic duff that can hold heat over winter and flare back up after a period of warm, dry weather,” Chase said.
Hotspots, fire-weakened trees and loose boulders are among the known hazards in areas burned by wildfires. Add rain and an area can be susceptible to rock and landslides, as well, fire officials said.
A Chetco Effect, when hot, dry winds blow down the Chetco River toward the sea, is forecast for today. And the seasonal outlook suggests a hot, dry summer with elevated fire danger in Oregon, Chase said.
People are reminded to be vigilant with campfires and observe any local prohibitions due to fire hazards. Fireworks — the cause of the Eagle Creek Fire — are always illegal on federal public land, and campfires should be “stone-cold out” before leaving; if it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
Visitors are encouraged to contact local offices or recreation sites to “know before you go” if fire restrictions or closures are in place.
For more information on closures and fire prevention, visit www.coosfpa.net or call the closure line at 541-267-1789.