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Heavy rain helps Willamette National Forest crews make progress on Petes Lake, 4 other fires; burned areas surveyed

Map of the Petes Lake Fire as of Wednesday, Sept. 27
Petes Lake Fire/InciWeb
Map of the Petes Lake Fire as of Wednesday, Sept. 27

(Update: Thursday's fires update, burned-area response team gets to work))

New management team to assume command of efforts

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Two days of significant rainfall have aided efforts to shift work on five Willamette National Forest wildfires from suppression to repair on the lines, and Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team is getting to work on three of the blazes.

Emergency Response team begins post-fire surveys of Lookout, Horse Creek and Pothole burned areas

McKenzie Bridge, Ore. – Sept. 28, 2023 — An Emergency Response Team of resource specialists began field surveys and assessments for the burned areas of the Lookout, Pothole and Horse Creek fires today. The Lookout Fire, which started Aug. 5, 2023, covers 25,751 acres. The Horse Creek Fire is contained at 763 acres, and the Pothole Fire is contained at 109 acres. The fires have been burning on the Willamette National Forest and some adjacent private lands, and continue to smolder within established containment lines.

The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team is an Emergency Response program aimed at managing imminent and unacceptable risks to human life, safety and property, as well as threats to critical natural and cultural resources from post-wildfire conditions.  

The BAER Team, comprised of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees who specialize in multiple resource areas, is conducting field studies using science-based models to rapidly assess watersheds on National Forest lands. The team will then inventory critical values, assess risk and determine the need for emergency measures and treatments on the Forest. The director of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is working with the team to provide technical expertise and scientific knowledge. 

Team members will closely assess watersheds for post-fire, rain-related impacts, such as increased flooding, debris-flow potential, and increased soil erosion. The team then recommends time-critical treatments to be completed before the first damaging storm event. Those recommendations are submitted as a proposed stabilization plan for approval.  Once approved, the Forest will receive funding to complete stabilization efforts within the fire area. 

Treatments will be installed within one year from the date of full containment and may be monitored for up to three years. The team will share any areas of concern outside of National Forest lands with the appropriate federal, state and county agencies so they may work with individual landowners under their respective authorities. Fire assessments should be completed within a few weeks, with a stabilization plan implemented by the Willamette National Forest shortly thereafter.

For more information regarding this Emergency Response assessment, please contact Kassidy Kern at (541) 588-2000 or

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @WillametteNF for more updates.  

Another sign of progress on the Petes Lake Fire came Wednesday, as the Deschutes National Forest rescinded its temporary Forest Closure Order (06-18-01-23-26) in the area of the blaze west of Elk Lake.

The closure began on August 27th and encompassed all Deschutes National Forest-managed lands, including Horse Lake Trail, Island Meadow Trail, Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail - Irish Mtn., Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail - Maiden Peak, Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail - Three Sister, Senoj Lake Trail #14.1, Six Lakes Trail, Six Lakes Trailhead, Snowshoe Lakes Trail, Winopee Lake Trail, Winopee Tie Trail, Winopee Trailhead, and Elk Lake Trailhead. All of these areas, including the Wanoga Sno-Park are now open to the public.

A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail was burned over by the Petes Lake Fire, and the public is reminded to use caution through fire-impacted areas.

The Petes Lake Fire remains on the Willamette National Forest and forecast wetter and colder weather conditions are expected to keep fire activity minimal until a season-ending event fully extinguishes hot spots.

The Petes Lake Fire was started by lighting on August 25. The fire is now 3,254 acres and 80% of the indirect suppression measures (e.g. the shaded fuel break, roadside mastication and brushing) has been completed at this time. The use of indirect suppression strategizes minimizes risk to firefighters, while offering containment options for this and future fires.

Cooler, wetter weather has helped crews make progress on restoring areas where lines were built on five large wildfires on the Willamette National Forest, and the Petes Lake Fire work is now considered 80% complete, officials said Wednesday.

Here's Thursday's update on the Willamette National Forest fires:

Lookout, Bedrock, Petes Lake, Horse Creek and Pothole Fires
Thursday, September 28, 2023 - Morning Update

Lookout Fire: Size: 25,751 acres l Start Date: August 5 l Cause: Lightning l Containment: 50%

Bedrock Fire: Size: 31,590 acres l Start Date: July 22 l Cause: under investigation l Containment: 98%

Petes Lake Fire: Size: 3,254 acres l Start Date: August 25 l Cause: Lightning l Completion: 80%

Horse Creek Fire: Size: 763 acres l Start Date: August 24 l Cause: Lightning l Containment: 100%

Pothole Fire: Size: 109 acres l Start Date: August 25 l Cause: Lightning l Containment: 100%

Total Assigned Personnel: 467 I 16 engines l 16 crews l 2 dozers 4 water tenders l 3 masticators l 2 helicopters

Northwest Incident Management Team 10 (NW Team 10), managed by Incident Commander Alan Lawson, took command of the fire at 6 p.m. yesterday. The incoming team members spent the day with their counterparts from the Pacific Northwest Team 2 (PNW2), gathering information to ensure a seamless transition.

Suppression Repair: A half-inch of rain was received over the fire areas the last two days, furthering containment efforts and shifting focus to repair – the process of restoring disturbed areas to their natural state. This is a critical phase, ensuring ecosystem recovery and reducing the risk of future fires. Ongoing suppression repair work across the fire areas includes chipping and removing large amounts of woody debris, drainage work, erosion control, hand and dozer line naturalization and infrastructure repair. Although the fires are largely under control, considerable work remains.

Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER): Resource specialists began assessment of the Lookout Fire yesterday. While suppression repair primarily concentrates on damages brought on by firefighting efforts, a BAER team concentrates on impacts caused by the fire itself. Both aim to correct and prevent damage, although from different causes. After a BAER assessment, a report and maps will be released following the analysis of their findings – similar to the products developed for the Bedrock Fire on September 21. 

Weather: Light rain will continue over the fire area through Friday, with minimal winds. Temperatures will remain somewhat consistent, with highs in the lower 60s and overnight lows in the 40s.

Evacuations: There are no evacuation notices remaining. 

Forest Closures: Emergency closure orders remain in place for the Willamette National Forest. There are no longer emergency closures in place from the Petes Lake Fire. Current emergency closure orders on National Forest System lands may affect some hunting units. For specific hunting related questions, contact Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at (503) 947-6000.

Restrictions: Due to recent rainfall and cooler temperatures, the Willamette National Forest rescinded public use (fire) restrictions, lowered the fire danger level to “low” and reduced the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) to IFPL I on Wednesday. Last Friday, the Deschutes National Forests dropped public use (fire) restrictions. Temporary Flight Restrictions remain in place.

Smoke Outlook: With decreased fire activity, smoke outlooks for these fires are no longer being issued. Air quality conditions are still available at Links

Article Topic Follows: Fire Alert

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