Progress on Sweet Creek Fire continues

Local photographer Vern DePietro captured this image of a Sikorsky S61A helicopter on Thursday above the Sweet Creek Milepost 2 Fire near Mapleton. According to Oregon Department of Forestry, the helicopter drew water to cool hot spots that remained from the burnout operation on the northwest corner of the fire.

Evacuations for area residents are downgraded as crews near 50% containment

Sept. 5, 2020 — Since Monday, fire crews battling the Sweet Creek Milepost 2 Fire have made steady progress, moving from 0 containment at the fire’s outset last Sunday, to 63 percent containment as of this morning (Sept. 5). Wildland fire crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) had brought what had been an estimated 516-acre fire down to approximately 380 acres by Wednesday, with crews working through the night to surround the blaze and close it in.

While ODF crews have been addressing the wildfire itself, local firefighters from Mapleton, Swisshome/Deadwood and Florence have been providing structural protection of homes. As of Friday morning, all 138 homes in the area remain intact.

Thursday, ODF day crews pushed the fire up to 200 feet within the fire’s interior while, that evening, night crews aided by handheld infrared thermal imaging cameras re-checked containment lines and extend mop up another 25 to 50 feet within what had been the fire’s outer perimeter.

Overnight humidity levels of nearly 90 percent on some parts of the fire also helped eliminate additional flare-ups in the area.

“Low temperatures and high relative humidity, combined with predicted low wind speeds, will significantly decrease fire activity,” said Joe Hessel, ODF’s IMT 1 Incident Commander, who commended crews on the incident’s excellent safety record, though fire managers cautioned daytime winds have brought down snags within the fire perimeter. “Rolling debris loosened by the fire, including rocks, trees and vegetation continue to challenge safe travel along Sweet Creek Road.”

As of press time Friday, Sweet Creek Road remains closed to all public traffic, as does the Siuslaw River from the Highway 126 Bridge in Mapleton to Tiernan Landing. A detour has been established for residents from Sweet Creek Road to Forest Service Road #24 to Maple Creek Road to Canary Road, which connects with Highway 101 north of Dunes City.  Those utilizing the detour are advised to turn on their headlights, drive slowly and be prepared for narrow roads.

Hadsall Creek Road remains closed.

In addition, as of Friday morning, the Level 3 evacuation issued for Hadsall Creek had been downgraded to  Level 2 [Be Set], Sweet Creek Road was downgraded from Level 2 to Level 1 (Be Ready), and the Level 1 evacuation notice for Bernhardt Creek Road and Duncan Island Road had been lifted.

For more information on evacuations and closures, visit www.lanecounty.org/news/sweetcreekfires. The Red Cross is providing accommodations for those affected by the fire. To make emergency arrangements call 888-680-1455.

The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) has teamed up with a local community volunteer to place a particulate matter air sensor in the Mapleton Area. The sensor will contribute data to help LRAPA track air quality throughout Lane County.

For more about the PurpleAir Monitor and to see real-time data from Mapleton, visit www.lrapa.org/301/Particulate-Matter-Air-Sensors.

Officials remind people that as the Labor Day weekend approaches, traffic is anticipated to increase, creating additional hazards for drivers and fire personnel. Fire managers and local officials ask travelers driving through Mapleton on Highway 126 to allow extra time, drive slowly and to be extra cautious of fire traffic as crews continue to work toward 100 percent containment of the fire.

A Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sweetcreekmp2fire has been set up with daily updates on the fire.

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