UPDATE: Second  Brush Fire Of Week Causes Early Fire Season Concerns

Photo by Chris Chapman – A bushfire call up near Wiley Creek was a chilling reminder of the 2023 fire season.

On Wednesday, March 20, a significant brush fire was sighted near the Wiley Creek area, as reported by the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District (SHFAD). 

Despite it being mid-March and having experienced heavy rains for the last few months, the SHFAD and the ODF have responded to their second and largest fire since last Friday.

The most recent fire, first reported around 3:20 p.m., emerged approximately 12 miles up the Wiley Creek area within an active logging operation. According to SHFAD, the fire initially engulfed about five acres of logging slash in a previously logged area but had spread to an estimated 10 acres by 7 p.m. Due to the fire’s challenging location on a south-facing slope and its expansion through steep, difficult terrain it complicated the efforts of firefighters.

Chief Nick Tyler of the SHFAD was struck by a haunting reminder of last year’s fire season when their first wildfire call brought them back to the area of the 2023 Wiley Creek Wildfire that started on August 7th and lasted for weeks.

“Having a fire on Wiley Creek did bring some emotions as we dealt with the Wiley Fire last year,” said Tyler. “Being so early in March, I did not expect the same fire behavior as we had last year on that Wiley Fire.”

Responding to the Wiley Creek area, SHFAD and ODF initially identified a large fire on the Wiley Creek 240 road, situated approximately at the 8-mile marker. Both SHFD and ODF coordinated their efforts under a unified command, collaborating with local industry partners to battle the fire. Officials have confirmed that no structures were under threat during the fire.

Throughout the night, crews remained on scene, utilizing heavy equipment to combat the blaze.

“Having this little stint of fires demonstrates the potential that our area has for fire. It doesn’t take long for smaller fuels to dry out and be receptive to burning. Once those smaller fuels catch fire, the heat can rapidly dry out bigger fuels and allow fire to spread. It’s not overly indicative of having a bad fire season, but it’s not a great start either,” stated Tyler.

According to Tyler, “What we need in Sweet Home is for our community members to know we are not immune to fire. We should not be afraid of it, but we should take precautions and do what we can to prevent fires and the ability for a fire to grow large.”

On March 19, fire crews were dispatched to a significant natural cover fire, involving burning brush and trees. Upon arrival at the scene, firefighters found a resident attempting to combat the flames with a garden hose.

Although the fire primarily consumed brush and blackberry bushes, with some large fir trees affected, it was estimated to be less than a quarter-acre in size and was dangerously close to a residential property. Swift action by firefighters led to the prompt containment of the fire.

Local firefighters emphasize the rapid drying out of grass, brush, and trees, urging everyone to remain vigilant.

Tyler said, “SHFAD is doing everything we can to assist with that. Local homeowners that have concerns of fire negatively impacting them, should contact us and get a home assessment conducted on their property. Our Community Wildfire Risk Reduction specialist can help develop a plan to increase defensible space to help mitigate fire risk.” 

The program to assist homeowners is a partnership between SHFAD and the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

“As you know, we are also working on a fuels reduction team to be able to assist homeowners. Once the plan to create a defensible space is in place, we will be able to come out and remove brush, trees or other issues to make a safer area for our community.”

SHFAD offers home assessments to help homeowners improve defensible space from wildfires. Please contact Christian Whitfield, the District’s Community Wildfire Prevent Specialist for further information at (541) 367-5882.

Currently the cause of this fire is still under investigation.

Location of Wiley Creek fire and Video: