Oregon Fires

Photo Credits to the Douglas Forest Protective Association from their (Facebook Page Link
Douglas Complex fire
Douglas Fire 2

Time for a little bit of update now that we are back home in Rocky Point.  We planned a few days in Grants Pass, and as luck would have it, we arrived the morning after more than 3,000 lightning strikes from a summer storm ignited at least 54 fires on private and BLM lands in Southern Oregon.  Living in the west as we do, keeping track of the fire situation is part of the routine, and we aren’t surprised to see smoke rising from one direction or another.  Some years are worse than others.  The year I moved to Klamath Falls in 2002, the Biscuit Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in the Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.  Much controversy continues to this day about whether or not to allow salvage logging in these wild areas.
southern oregon firesIMG_0790 Several times in the last few years we have cancelled an August camping trip to one place or another due to smoke, and some of you may remember our travels last summer in the upper West that were marred by smoke from huge fires in Idaho and Montana.  There are many good resources to help keep track of fires and smoke, the best of which is found at the Incident Information website, http://www.inciweb.org.  This year, however, it was several days before the webmasters of this amazing site were able to keep up to date with all the rapidly changing information for the Douglas Complex fires. Another very helpful website related to fire and smoke is on Weather Underground, where the WunderMap for an area has a layer for active fires that shows the current fire situation and the extent of smoke cover. 
Actually, by the time we reached the pass last Saturday morning we didn’t need a website to know that smoke was probably going to be an issue for the entire time we planned to work at the cottage.  Once these fires start, it takes some serious weather to calm them down, and our rains don’t usually show up until October.  In the mean time, we get thunderstorms, with or without dry lightning, and very little real moisture.  Sometimes a marine system will come in and cause a shift and the smoke clears a bit, but it is usually around one way or another after a fire like this gets under way.
IMG_0769 Our main goal for the trip was to make sure we got the wood split from the trees we took down last month before it got too dry.  Mo loaded up the splitter in the big trailer and hooked it up to the truck for the trip.  We took the MoHo since daughter Deb is now living in the little cottage (one bedroom only) and we didn’t want to completely invade her space. 
IMG_0770 It turned out to be an incredibly productive trip, in spite of the heavy smoke.  We got all the wood split, with close to a cord of oak and about 3/4 cord of madrone, probably the best firewood around in Oregon.  The big rounds were heavy, but with the three of us working, (Mo does the splitting part) we managed to get it all done on the first day we were there.  We have a good ten cords stored here at home already, so plan to let the hardwood dry at the cottage before bringing it back here in a year or so.  We heat with wood in Rocky Point, but the cottage has a gas heater that works just fine.  No fireplace.
We had a great time with Deb, and she had a chance to show her strength and skill at demolition, tearing out a lot of the old wood and shelves and yukky “stuff” that was in the old bunkhouse.  We will eventually tear down the bunkhouse add-ons, but the main part of the building will be saved for Mo’s workshop.  Mo worked a lot on the sink plumbing again, and on building the wall and new cupboard that separates the bath and kitchen.  Finally we don’t have to hang a quilt for bathroom privacy!  Of course, her projects are not made any easier by the fact that nothing is even close to plumb in the little cottage and the reclaimed wood she is using is rarely square.  Lots of measuring and sawing involved.
IMG_0781P1010042 Deb and I managed to get a full load of metal for the recyclers and made almost enough money to pay for the full load that we took to the dump the next morning.  I have no idea how many dump loads we have hauled out of that place, but sooner or later we will get it all cleaned up.   In the midst of all the work, we cooked some good meals and enjoyed sitting at the table in the old fashioned kitchen in front of the windows.  Deb and I took time to play some rousing games of Hand and Foot, my favorite!  I taught her how, but she is fast catching up to me.  Dang! 
We also took an evening to go see “The Lone Ranger”.  Mo didn’t want to go, so we had a mom and daughter night with popcorn and one of the most entertaining movie experiences I have had in a long time.  There were some great sight gags, gorgeous photography of very familiar places I have traveled, including the exact spot where I built a campfire in Valley of the Gods back in 2004.  We both love Johnny Depp and his performance was great.  I am really glad that I didn’t let some of the negative things I have heard about the movie keep me from at least giving it a try.
We came home to Rocky Point to discover smoky skies on this side of the Cascade crest as well, and our first night back included another big thunderstorm that ignited a few more fires on this side of the mountain.  One bolt hit right on top of us, and I had an especially good view of it through the skylights!  Do you suppose that lightning could come in through those roof windows??
We live in the forest.  Fire happens here.  It could happen to us.  This part of Rocky Point hasn’t burned in more than 100 years.  I hope I don’t ever have to live through what so many have endured in the last few years.  I read about Nan trying to help her daughter save her cabin near Idyllwild, and Gaelyn returning home to her lot in Arizona with sadness.  But for the grace of God, we could be there as well.  I am thankful every single day.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

13 thoughts on “Oregon Fires”

  1. Glad to hear you are still safe from fires. We've been really lucky here in Montana this year. We've had a few fires but not completely out of control. Last year we couldn't breath because of the smoke and we don't have that this year. We don't actually camp in the forest here but an earthquake could do us in. No matter where you go you have to deal with Mother Nature.


  2. That smoky sun looks familiar! This year is the first year for wildfires for this Ex Indiana natives and is quite unsettling. Turns out I have a bit of PSTD from the fire that I thought didn't bother me! The last two mornings, I have smelled smoke in the bedroom of our motorhome. Yesterday, decided it was my overactive imagination. This morning the smell was stronger and I decided that smoke from the Idyllwild fire was in our A.C. filters. Then I walked outdoors and could see smoke here at the Escapees park in Coarsegold, CA. It is the Aspen fire in Yosimite National Park, twenty miles away. It all made my terribly anxious. You sound so calm….it helped me to chill.


  3. Be safe and stay vigilant. Your RV makes a great bug out vehicle and great place in which to live if fires get too close to home. Fires are an ever present danger here in AZ, too, as you mentioned!


  4. We'e never lived in an area where we've had to be concerned about fire danger. The devastation we've seen from such fires has been heartbreaking. Hope you don't every have to live through one up there at Rocky Point.


  5. Living in the White Mountains in the summers I know about the fire fear. But this year was they are having lots of rain and just in time. I sure will miss it next summer and I am already missing it now.

    Hope the rains come soon.


  6. We were camping close to where a fire was coming through. It is very scary and Mother Nature can be cruel. Looks like you have been working very hard and hopefully soon you can enjoy the fruits of your labors more.

    We liked the Lone Ranger very much and really didn't understand why it got such low ratings. Johnny Depp is a very talented actor.

    Take care and be safe.


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