NEAR MERLIN, Ore. — Fire crews say they’re racing against time to create a perimeter around the Big Windy Complex.
The roughly 14,000 acre fire has seen relatively favorable weather conditions, but officials say changing winds could make it much more active.
Fire officials say the terrain at the Big Windy Complex is some of the most extreme in the lower 48, meaning when they find a spot to create a bulldozer line, it’s meant to hold.
Fire officials call it an indirect strategy, create a perimeter where terrain will allow, meaning the fire will have a finite amount of space to consume, but those lines aren’t yet completed, and the fire could start moving much faster.
Officials say the cause is from something called the inversion layer. The same weather pattern that forces smoke low into the valley also stifles wind and oxygen to the fire, but that inversion layer is expected to lift. That could bring a lot more wind to the fire, forcing it outward and upward.
“If we do get unstable air above the fire, if we do get a bit of wind on it, if it is hotter and drier, we’re going to see some columns off of this fire.
Officials say the southeast corner of the fire is now their top priority. There are still gaps in that line, and the fire has a swift uphill climb to get there.
Right now about 1,200 crew members are working those lines, which officials say is close to the maximum terrain will safely allow. They say they still plan to have it contained, meaning surrounded by a perimeter, by September 1st. If the perimeter is completed, and if it holds, they say it will limit the fire to around 48,000 acres in total.