Fire danger lowered to “high” after heat from Cedar Creek Fire affects Florence

WLFEA firefighters assist in fighting large blaze

Sept. 12, 2022 — The fire danger for the Western Lane District was lowered to “high” from “extreme” on Monday, after a weekend of sweltering heat from the Cedar Creek Fire, which saw two local firefighters dispatched to help fight.

“The weekend went very well, locally,” said Matt House, Deputy Chief of WLFEA (Western Lane Fire and EMS Authority). “We didn’t see any increased activity due to the extreme fire danger and our call volume over the weekend was normal for this time of year.”

The peak of the heatwave came on Friday, as the temperature reached 94 degrees in Florence as ash and smoke began to drift westward from Cedar Creek.   

“That was absolutely our most concerning time with the east winds. They cause higher temperatures and lower humidity,” House said. “Things equalized on Saturday and Sunday, or where there wasn't a bigger concern as it was on Friday evening.”

Despite the conditions, call volume was normal, which House contributed to being prepared.

“A lot of what we did was being proactive,” House said. “Because of [the McKenzie/Holiday Farm Fire] two years ago, we were trying to anticipate this weather event. We were getting information from the meteorologist that it would be very similar to the weather event. So we remobilized and repositioned to protect our own county.”

Two WLFEA firefighters were dispatched to the Cedar Creek Fire last week, part of a Lane County task force to assist with evacuations, fire suppression and whatever else is needed in the fire. 

“It’s making sure a building is savable if the fire approaches it, or if there are things that could be done to make it a savable building, like trimming alongside of it, making a fire barrier, making it a safe area for the firefighters to come,” House said. “Essentially, whatever is directed at us from the incident command.”

This is the third time this year SVFR has been attached with a task force out of Lane County, though Cedar Creek is the largest fire this year. As of Monday, the lightning-caused fire had grown to 86,734 acres, forcing power outages and prompting the evacuations of thousands. I total, 1,228 personnel were working on the blaze, utilizing 75 engines, 22 crews, 68 pieces of heavy equipment and eight helicopters. 

While dry weather conditions remained and the fire was still zero percent contained on Monday, cooler temperatures and a heavy smoke layer were expected to moderate the blaze. Some evacuation orders have been rescinded, and parts of Highway 58 reopened. 

However, “while every effort is being made to protect the communities of Oakridge, Westfir and High Prairie, it is possible that conditions may require moving back to a level three ‘go now’ evacuation notice in some or all of these areas, and that can happen at any time,” reported Lane County Sheriff's Office.

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