Oregon Wildfires Claims Tens of Thousands of Acres

A wildfire started by a lightning strike late last month continues to burn, having already claimed over 40,000+ acres in three counties. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) continues to battle the blaze.

Dry Conditions, Swirling Winds Drive Flames

The Oregon Gulch Fire started Thursday, July 31, when lightning struck dry brush and timber near the Oregon/California state line. First reports of the fire estimated its size at approximately 10 acres; high winds and continued dry conditions have caused the fire to spread rapidly.

The fire is currently south of Oregon Highway 66 and east of Jenny Creek, covering parts of Jackson, Klamath, and Siskiyou counties, as well as parts of northern California. The blaze is generating huge columns of smoke, and has grown large enough that it could potentially generate its own weather, including more thunderstorms.

Photo credit: OregonDOT / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo credit: OregonDOT / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The smoke is also hampering the efforts of firefighters working to extinguish a number of other fires in the area. However, most of these fires are still small enough that they can readily be snuffed, according to Northwest Interagency Coordination Center spokesman Tom Knappenberger.

Knappenberger also stated that the high pressure system currently covering parts of Oregon, Washington, and northern California is responsible for the high number of lightning strikes as of late, including the one that started the Oregon Gulch Fire. This system has now moved out of the region.

Copco Road Heart of Evacuation Zone

Evacuation orders are in effect in areas around the blaze in both Oregon and California. Copco Road, running south from Highway 66 to California’s Copco Lake, is at the heart of the evacuation zone. Evacuation centers for displaced families have sprung up throughout the region.

Last week, the ODF indicated that structural damage from the fire has thus far been relatively minimal. Three homes, an undisclosed number of smaller buildings, and several vehicles have been destroyed so far, though thankfully no injuries have yet been reported.

The most recent report from the ODF stated that the fire is roughly 10 percent contained.