A Clackamas County task force led by Canby Fire’s Paramedics Division Chief Matt Dale was deployed to central Oregon this week to tackle the latest wildfire to ravage the state: the Middle Fork Complex, which has burned more than 6,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest north of Oakridge.
Three other Canby firefighters are also on the task force: Adam Carter, Keith Nichols and Travis Laloli. Canby Fire also sent its heavy brush engine with the crew. The group consists of a total of 17 firefighters from Clackamas County agencies, according to Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English.
They will join a force of more than 700 personnel battling the 6,259-acre Middle Fork, which was only 2% contained as of Thursday morning. Incident commanders predict it will be mid-September before the massive complex of three large wildfires is fully contained.
Clackamas Fire on Twitter: “Task Force 35 left this morning (Aug. 10) for the #MiddleForkComplex fire in Lane County, near Oakridge. They will be working for the @OSFM. #Wildfire #Oregon #ResponseReadyOregon @SandyFireDist @CanbyFire @LakeOswegoFire @HoodlandFire pic.twitter.com/wk5QDHUWAn / Twitter”
Task Force 35 left this morning (Aug. 10) for the #MiddleForkComplex fire in Lane County, near Oakridge. They will be working for the @OSFM. #Wildfire #Oregon #ResponseReadyOregon @SandyFireDist @CanbyFire @LakeOswegoFire @HoodlandFire pic.twitter.com/wk5QDHUWAn
English said the Clackamas County firefighters have been assigned to a level 2 evacuation area north of Oakridge. They are tasked with “structural triage,” which means assessing the potential danger to structures if the fire continues to spread and educating residents about safe evacuation and prevention techniques.
“They are in red-flag conditions down there,” English told The Canby Curren. “They are seeing no humidity recovery on the ridgetops overnight. I just got off the phone with Division Chief Dale, and he said it’s actually hotter on the ridgetops under the tree canopy than it is out in the open. It is, just, unbelievably hot and dry.”
While 2020 is already keenly remembered as a historic year for Oregon wildfires, English said he has never seen a fire season this bad this early. Oregon is home to the still-raging Bootleg Fire, which became the country’s largest active wildfire last month as it rampaged over 400,000 acres of the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
Canby Fire also sent a unit to assist in the Bootleg event. And these are only two of about a dozen large fires currently burning in the state.
“We had a late fire season last year and an early fire season this year,” said English. “Our fire season is stretching out on both sides due to lower humidities and higher temperatures. It causes all of our different fuel models to burn faster.”
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