Critical day for firefighters

JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. — Firefighters have been working hard to get containment on the Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires, but weather continues to be a challenge.

Kale Casey of the U.S. Forest Service says they’ve been preparing for today’s weather conditions for a while. With extremely hot and dry temperatures and changing wind patterns, Casey says it’s a critical day in their fight against flames.

“We all know that it’s early to mid-August,” Casey said. “We all know that we haven’t seen rain, so it’s just a matter of time…”

With the Taylor Creek Fire still burning strong at over 43,000 acres and the Klondike at over 38,000, firefighters have been working night and day to protect homes and structures.

However, today’s weather could compromise their progress so far.

“Everything is going to depend on what’s going to happen with this critical fire weather day, which we’ve been anticipating and waiting for literally for 2 or 3 days…”

That’s why Casey and others on his team are monitoring a computer program called Modis. It’s used by firefighters to watch heat patterns on the landscape.

“They can see fires spread by sensing what is the newest heat…and it gives it a color code,” Casey said.

So, when there’s new pockets of heat springing up on the Modis map…

“Then we can setup up our D-RTI flights to go look and see how quickly is it moving, where it’s moving, and what intensity it’s moving…”

These new pockets of heat are called spot fires. If they’re not controlled quickly, those small fires can turn into much larger ones. And on a day like today with hot, dry weather… Casey says firefighters are on high alert.

“Cause there’s been no rain, we’re in record drought, record dry fuels, and with some alignment of wind and if it clears out we can see some build up and movement up to several miles…,” he said.

Casey says these weather conditions will most likely continue into this weekend. And while the wind is pushing some of the smoke out, it’s a double edged sword. The improved air quality is good for us, but bad for firefighting.

Without the smoke cover, fires are more likely to spark.

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