Crews in place to battle South Umpqua Complex Fire

The incident response team took over command in the Tiller Ranger District Wednesday morning, getting crews and equipment in place and ready to go.

Posted: Jul 18, 2018 4:54 PM
Updated: Jul 18, 2018 6:51 PM

MILO, Ore. -- Fire crews got their boots on the ground in the Tiller Ranger District Wednesday to battle nearly 30 fires caused by lightning.

Those fires are now being called the South Umpqua Complex Fire.

The Incident Response Team officially took over operations for the South Umpqua Complex Fire at 6 a.m.

Air Operations Branch Director Rob Budge said ramping up firefighting efforts involves working on getting about 300 more fire crew members out there to fight those fires and bringing in aviation crews and equipment to fight them from above.

“We’re placing orders for additional personnel and additional aircraft,” Budge said. “Basically taking what’s already here, integrate as much as we can into what we already have planned, then order additionally to be fully supported.”

Aside from not being fully staffed yet, the biggest issue is figuring out the exact size of all of the fires in the area.

Budge said there are six big fires burning an estimated total of 300 acres, but they still need to get those hard numbers.

“Some fires we have a very good idea on. Others we’re still getting smoke reports on, the forest (crews are) still trying to get their heads wrapped around a few of the fires,” Budge said. “So, we’ve got some that we know quite a bit about, but others that are very much an unknown right now.”

Operations Chief Scott Stanton said right now, crews are prioritizing the protection of any structures and putting out any new fires that may start up.

“We have six divisions plus a group. The group consists of an initial what we call attack group for any new starts,” Stanton said. “We obviously want to catch any new start right away, and that’s a big priority. We obviously don’t want any more new fires to grow.”

The Douglas Forest Protective Association and Oregon Department of Forestry are assisting on the fire as well.

Fire officials ask that those going to the Tiller or Milo areas for the pow-wows happening this weekend and next be mindful of the fire crews that are moving in and out to fight these fires.

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