USFS: Canal Creek Fire cost $5.6 million

The fire is out, and now the area burned in the 283-acre Canal Creek Fire last summer needs to be repaired, U.S. Forest Service officials say.

A handful of U.S. Forest Service workers will stay busy doing that until the snow starts falling at the site, located near the northern edge of the Sweet Home Ranger District between Sweet Home and Detroit.

The fire was listed as controlled on Oct. 8, said Jennifer O’Leary, Forest Service public affairs specialist. “Up until that point, we had continually monitored the fire area looking for any hot spots that may have reignited.”

Fire officials were most concerned with the perimeter of the fire, she said. The last smoke was detected aerially on Oct. 8.

With the fire out, three to five people have been working in the area for the past few weeks, O’Leary said. The rehabilitation has included a number of projects, such as improving roads to access the fire area. At the same time, they are brushing out roads built to fight the fire along with fire lines.

Trees and brush that were cut are being chipped to reduce fuel loading, she said. The crew also is reseeding some areas disrupted by firefighting activity.

The crew is working a few days each week, she said, and it will continue until snow starts falling.

The last projection on costs for fighting the Canal Creek Fire was released on Sept. 19, O’Leary said. The total cost estimate was $5.6 million.

Of that total, $1.4 million was used for aircraft, O’Leary said. Aircraft use is expensive, but it was the most cost-effective way to reach much of the affected land, which is steep and inaccessible from the ground.

“Aircraft were the most effective means when it wasn’t safe to put firefighters on the ground,” she said. The cost per gallon of water dropped on the fire is actually lower for aircraft than it is for firefighters on the ground.

The largest cost was for personnel, roughly $1.78 million, O’Leary said. At its peak, the operation had 602 personnel.

Among other costs, the Forest Service spend $25,000 on bulldozers, $96,000 for engines, $69,000 for water tenders, $269,000 on catering, $44,000 for medical and rescue personnel and $65,000 for showers and hand-washing units.

O’Leary acknowledged and thanked the Oregon Department of Forestry for its help fighting the fire.

The Sweet Home Unit was involved from the start of the fire, she said. The Forest Service worked with the ODF as the fire response escalated.

Partners like the ODF, which also was protecting nearby private landowners, are “something we really value and appreciate,” she said.