Rowena Fire — Fire on west side of Tom McCall Point

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UPDATED 8/12/2014 at 5:30PM:

Arrival of wetting rain earlier this afternoon sure feels good.  No lightning ground strikes so far today within about ten miles of here, and more rain forecast through Thursday.  Chance of a lightning-caused fire should diminish, though for the moment much of Mosier is still very dry.

Here’s one final map of the Rowena Fire, showing fire progression.  Everything from 8/8 and 8/9 on the map (gold and orange shading) were intentional burnouts.

Today marks the transition to local resources.

UPDATED 8/11/2014 at 1PM:

Here’s a link to the current Air Ops map, showing new fire lines currently under construction on the west and south sides of Tom McCall.  It’s unclear if fire managers intend to burn out east of these new lines.  Chief Appleton has requested advance notice if burnouts are planned.

UPDATED 8/11/2014 at 9AM:

The new spot fire to the west of Tom McCall Point was quickly stopped at about eight acres.  The spot fire is now completely cold and lined.  There is next to no chance of further spread of this spot fire.  As noted below, this spot fire probably did Mosier a favor or two.

Crews are now working off Dell Road, laying in a second fire line outside the main line south of Tom McCall, as a contingency for any further spotting.

Here’s a link to this morning’s briefing map, showing the extension at the top of Tom McCall Point.  It’s the tiny bubble poking out on the west side of the original fire line in Section 10, near the division boundary.

Here are some photographs taken by Mike McKeag during operations on the McCall Point spot fire yesterday.

20140810_McKeag_001

The first, shot from Dell Road, shows a helicopter bucket drop on a hazard pine tree in the fire zone.  If that tree torched on a gust from the east, there’s a chance it could have spread the fire our way. Look closely for hand crews around the bottom of the fire.  This is within about twenty minutes of the start of the spot fire, so you can get a sense of how quickly and effectively crews were on it.

20140810_McKeag_002

The second photo, from the Rowena Overlook, shows the top of the “chimney” on the east side of Tom McCall Point, and a helicopter dropping water on a portion of the heavy fuels which showered embers over the rim and down the hill to the west, on a gust of east wind.  This patch will continue to smolder under the close attention of fire crews.  The more completely it burns out, the better, so long as it does not send off embers.

Great photos, Mike!  Thanks for sending them to Suzi.

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At about 2:40PM today, Sunday 8/10/2014, a fire started near the top of Tom McCall Point, on the west-facing slopes above Rowena Creek.

The Incident Command Post reports directly to Chief Appleton that this appears to be fire spread outside the fire line.  It was not intentionally lit.

At the moment (4PM 8/10/2014) there does not appear to be any threat.  Fire advance has been halted, lots and lots of resources on the ground, and at least two helicopters.

As the fire started, Chief Appleton happened to be watching from the top of Ponderosa Place in town.  A strong gust of east wind blew a column of thick, turbulent white smoke up and over the top of the east-facing cliff, then down the slope to the west, and a few seconds later flame and smoke were visible about 1/8 of a mile below the summit.

Trusting that fire crews are ready for additional spot fires, this one is potentially good news in two respects.

First, there is good consumption in the heavy fuels below the east slope of Tom McCall, which were the source of the ember that lit this fire.  The likelihood of another ember decreases as the fuel goes away.

Second, blackened grassland here is actually a good thing.  If a hot ember blows up the east cliff, likely it will land in the black.  Fire managers may consider burning out additional acres in the Hog Canyon side of the slope with this spot fire in mind.  Chief Appleton has requested advance notice in this event.Otherwise do not expect to see any significant growth of the Rowena Fire in our direction.

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At about 3:20PM, noted the following at Ponderosa Place:

temp:    99F

rel. hum.    18.6%

winds East     5 – 8 mph sustained

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