Firefighters expecting a busy weekend for Rum Creek Fire

JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore.– More firefighters are being brought in, to fight the Rum Creek Fire as they prepare for more fire activity over the weekend.

As of Thursday, there’s almost 2,000 fire personnel working the fire.

Smoke is still keeping fire activity low by lowering the temperature and increasing the humidity.

Now, fire officials are working to prepare for this weekend, because they expect wind to clear the smoke soon.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office’s Sandy Roberts said, “we’re going to get some sun on this fire and that does cause some instability.”

Firefighters are doing everything they can to prepare for a potentially unstable Rum Creek Fire this weekend.

Roberts said most of their attention is focused on the east side of the fire towards Galice.

“We’re looking at creating solid line form the bottom to the top on the east side,” she said.

Roberts said firefighters have been working on securing homes and buildings near Galice.

She said they’ve been working to create defensible space up to 200 feet from homes, hoping to save them if the fire shifts.

Roberts said, “24 hours ahead, 48 hours ahead, 72 hours ahead of where do we need to put our resources  to take a look at those properties and help them get a little more fire secure on that land.”

Firefighters are also using a drone to collect information on fire lines and spot fires.

They say drones cut down on the amount of helicopters used for reconnaissance flights.

Drone Pilot Patrick Edwards said, “we can go fly through the smoke so we can limit man aviation hours.  We can look for fire lines, we can look for spot fires, we can look for heat, we can even look for structures if they don’t know where they are.”

Edwards said the drone they’re using costs around $20,000.

He said the drone team includes one pilot and three trainees that switch off flying the drone.

Edwards said, “we have a live feed that we stream from our tablet to a tv. So whoever is asking for the flight or who wants the information, they can watch in real time and see with their eyes what we see.”

Edwards said they use infrared cameras that can help identify injured firefighters as well as spot the hottest burning areas.

He said the drone has so far helped find multiple injured firefighters during the rum creek fire.

“We’re trying to reduce risk to life, and to help save property,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the average flight is around 15 to 20 minutes.

He said the drones are especially handy when there’s smoke in the air like there was Thursday.

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NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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