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Oregon wildfire likely a ‘holdover’ from 2018 Klondike Fire, officials say

by Jamie Parfitt, KDRV-TV (Medford, Ore.) |

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A small wildfire that appeared in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest over the weekend was the largest one on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands so far this year in southwest Oregon, according to the agency. Still, the fire did not grow larger than 1.5 acres.

The "Black Fire" started near the Illinois River Road on the Wild Rivers Ranger District, and came up on smoke detection cameras operated by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) around 3 p.m. Saturday.

Forestry officials started an aggressive attack — sending in four members of the Siskiyou Rappellers followed by two wildland fire engines, one heavy and one medium helicopter, and a fire prevention officer with an engine. The Gold Beach Ranger District also lent an engine to the effort.

Once the fire was contained, investigators determined that the fire was probably not human-caused, but a "holdover" from the 2018 Klondike Fire that burned more than 175,000 acres on forest lands in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and beyond.

"The Black Fire was burning in the area blackened by last year’s fire and more specifically, in a snag patch with needle cast," USFS said in a statement.

Fire crews will be tending the area over the next several days to make sure that the Black Fire stays extinguished.

“It’s not uncommon to experience holdover fires in the footprint of last year’s large fires,” said Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Fire Staff Officer Eric Hensel. “Heavy fuels that hold substantial heat can continue to smolder over the winter, and then rekindle as the weather warms and dries.”

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Medford District Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands are all at "high" fire-danger levels.

Flare-ups from last year have been reported in other areas of Oregon as well. According to an Associated Press report, the Willamette National Forest has already had four "reburns" from last year's Terwilliger Fire, which burned along the Cascades east of Eugene. That fire covered less than 12,000 acres and was fought as a full-suppression fire.