On Sunday, Aug. 19, the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) put together a public meeting at the Community Center in Paisley to discuss the on-going Watson Creek Fire.
At 7 p.m., the meeting drove in dozens of community members, all wondering what the situation had developed into over the weekend.
After starting as a mere 2-3-acre fire on Wednesday, Aug. 15, the fire was mapped at 25,788 acres using infrared fly over equipment on the night of Sunday, Aug. 19 and growing to 32,104 as of Tuesday morning. The fire is an estimated five percent contained as of Tuesday and the direction of the wind is pushing toward the McComb Butte near Forest Road 33 headed east/southeast.
The fire managers attending the public meeting mentioned a record low of fuel conditions occurring in the 300,000-acre area where the massive bug kill happened 10 years ago.
Timberlands off Forest Road 3315, known as High Road, near the Bear Creek Trailhead have challenged crews especially. Near Winter Rim, the wind conditions and changes are unlike anywhere in the area with the ability to alter the direction of the wind with the snap of a finger. Even with 556 assigned personnel, four Type 2 medium helicopters, one Type 3 helicopter and dozers on the job, maintaining the fire has been tough.
As the fire roared past the dozers trying to cut off the progression, the fire teams only silver lining for the moment was being able to pick up two spot fires out around 29 Road.
With the priority of the firefighters still lying with the northern part of the fire headed toward the town of Paisley and private timberland areas, the area north of 3315 Road has been assessed aggressively on Sunday evening, and the morning of Monday, Aug. 20.
Meteorologist, Matt Mechle was brought in from weather services to provide live weather information of the forecasts to the teams using a Remote Automated Weather System (RAWS).
Mechle will also ask the firefighters out tending to the blaze to provide him with information about the weather conditions in the field through what he calls spot forecasting, hopefully providing the crews with some valuable information during briefing in the mornings.
Although the weather is calling for a chance of rain due to the fires ability to create its own weather, the chance of thunderstorms and lightening strikes are concerning.
A Level 3 evacuation has been issued for approximately 15 homes in the Lakeview Estates neighborhood just north of Campbell and Deadhorse lakes.
If the fire makes its way across 29 Road, Level 3 evacuation measures will be taken for the community of Paisley. This will be sent down from the Sheriff’s office and also relayed across all of the SCOFMP’s social media sites.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the fire closure of the roads and recreation areas on the Fremont-Winema National Forest remains in place.
For more information, keep an eye out on the SCOFMP’s Facebook, Twitter and Instacast sites as well as information relayed by Paisley’s local radio station, KPAI 103.1 FM.