Interesting story in the Salem, Oregon, Statesman-Journal.
The fire started in a wilderness area.
The Statesman Journal looked at multiple records called “fire decision documents” from the earliest days of the fire, along with daily public records and information released by the Forest Service last week to create a detailed narrative. Among the findings:
- After an initial attack that attempted to put the fire out, crews stepped back and didn’t drop water for nine of 10 days from Aug. 21 to Aug. 30.
- Smokejumpers, hotshot crews and a rappel team attempted to access the fire, but it was deemed beyond the “realm of acceptable risk,” leading to a containment strategy.
- Crews wrote on Aug. 21 that the containment strategy “is vulnerable to resource availability and to critical fire weather events (east winds for example).”
- Later, the Forest Service said calls for additional resources went unanswered even as historically dangerous east winds and fire danger arrived — the two things they feared.
- Independent and retired fire experts who looked at the response were mixed in their assessment. Some said the agency did the best it could given a difficult, dangerous fire location — and limited resources — while others said fire crews were too cautious and should have stayed more aggressive.
Note that this was an extreme fire season in the west, especially in Oregon. Resources were stretched.
The fire burned nearly 200,000 acres of land, destroyed homes in Detroit, Gates, and Mill City, and killed five people.