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Sisters fire, $7million spent, timber devastated
by Pat Ratliff, staff writer, posted 9/4/03, The Tri-County Courier

The B&B Fire Complex, burning approximately 14 miles northwest of Sisters, Oregon, grew to nearly 50,000 acres by Sunday, with the running cost topping $7 million, fire officials said.

Firefighting costs are increasing by about $1 million each day, according to Incident Commander Bob Anderson. Anderson said 2,137 personnel are fighting the blaze.

Although the fire is 40 percent contained, Anderson said there is no estimate of when total containment might come.

Fire Information Officer Tom Lavagnino, of the Rogue River National Forest, explained that much of the fire is burning though forest containing substantial amounts of beetle killed timber. Beetle kill is brought on by drought and stress caused by the trees being too densely populated, Lavagnino said.

"Parts of this fire will probably burn until the winter rains and snow extinguish it," Lavagnino said.

The fire was reported August 19, and the cause remains under investigation, Anderson said. Anderson said none of the rumors on what started the fire, reported widely by media outlets across the country, have any basis of fact.

"There are teams in there investigating now, and they have not said a word yet on cause," Anderson said. "Everything you may have heard is complete speculation."

On Thursday Anderson released most of the structural protection units from the interagency firefighting effort.

Earlier in the week officials evacuated some 1,500 people from the town of Camp Sherman as the fire approached to within five miles of the small hamlet. Those residents have been allowed to return.

Highway 20 between Sisters and Eugene, closed Aug. 19 when the fire burned over the highway, reopened tentatively Sunday with a heavy police presence enforcing a 45 mile per hour speed limit and temporary closures possible because of heavy smoke.

The B and B Complex fire is burning in both the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests and theWarm Springs Reservation. The national forests contain heavy old growth timber and regeneration mixed conifer, beetle kill and heavy dead and down wood. Thirteen structures have been damaged.

Ironically, the northwest edge of the fire is being held on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, where the forest has been actively logged on a sustainable yield basis since the 1930s.

Three injuries have been reported to date, Anderson said, listing an allergic reaction to a bee sting, a broken rib from a fall, and a mild concussion from a small snag falling and striking a firefighter on the head. All were transported to the hospital in Redmond and were treated and released.

Agencies assisting include the US Forest Service, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon Department of Transportation, Bureau of Land Management, Jefferson County Search and Rescue, Deschutes, Marion and Jefferson county sheriff departments, Oregon Department of Forestry, Sisters/Camp Sherman Fire Department, Oregon State Police, National Weather Service, Oregon State Fire Marshal, National Guard, American Red Cross, and private operators.

Suppression efforts also include 13 helicopters, spotting planes, and retardant planes based out of the Bend/Redmond airport. There are 59 crews, 82 Engine/Pumpers, 14 dozers, and 22 water tenders working the fire.

Local citizens are supporting the firefighting effort. Donations of coffee grounds and boxes of new socks and underwear were observed being donated at the temporary staging camp, located on the grounds of Sisters High School. One firefighter observed, "This is the only fire Iíve been to where you could get a salad and a new change of underwear in the same line."

 

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Page Updated: Saturday February 25, 2012 05:27 AM  Pacific


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