Switching up strategies: How firefighters have to adapt to challenging weather conditions

 CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — When it comes to fighting fires like Almeda and the many others that sparked just one week ago, the conditions can have firefighters switching up their tactics by the minute.

“It’s like taking a hairdryer and pouring a bottle of water in front of it,” said Jackson County Fire District 3 Deputy Chief Mike Hussey. “It just blows it out.”

Hussey said last week’s east winds caused significant fires in the Bear Creek Greenway and exposed the urban areas to them. “We’ve never experienced something of this magnitude,” he said.

“When the structures start burning with that wind and that hot wind pushing on it, it just lays all of the heat and embers over,” Hussey said, “and it makes it very difficult to make a stand and get ahead of it.”

Even on cool days like Friday, high winds can take embers high up into the air and spread them up to a mile away. “And really, there’s no way to produce enough effective water supply or flow to extinguish all of it,” Hussey said.

Hussey said this was the case in the Central Point fire that happened last Wednesday. “What we have to do when it is rapidly moving through an area like this,” said Hussey, “we gotta step back and try and be strategic in a box. We draw a box on it and say here’s a landmark, here’s a geographic opportunity for us to get ahead of this fire, hold it right where it is.”

Hussey said they’ve helped in Napa, Sonoma and Paradise, but to have it in our own backyard is definitely a first for most of his team.

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