LAKEVIEW, Ore. — The return of rain to southern Oregon last week gave firefighters the break they needed to turn the tables on the Cougar Peak Fire burning northwest of Lakeview, with fire officials reporting "excellent progress" on efforts to secure perimeter lines and mop up hot spots.
The fire was estimated at 86,412 acres with 6 percent containment as of Tuesday morning, reflecting very little growth over the previous 24 hours.
Officials said that firefighters have scouted or created miles of direct and indirect line while mopping up areas that threatened existing containment lines. With smoke clearing somewhat over the fire area, aircraft were able to fly in to aid crews on the ground. However, lower humidity throughout the area is increasing the chance that fuels will dry out and provide for increased fire activity.
Overnight, crews patrolled the fire's edge and looked for hot-spots. Officials said that Tuesday's priority will be on the eastern and southern edges of the fire, with hand crews and dozers working to connect existing containment lines, followed by hose lays. Officials predicted that Tuesday's weather could be conducive for tactical burnout operations as well.
"Fire managers plan to secure the fire line on the southwest corner of the fire with a burnout," the incident management team said in an update. "Clear skies will give ground resources access to all available air assets today to extinguish flare ups and hot spots throughout the fire."
Meanwhile, a heavy equipment group is working on the west side of the fire to reinforce contingency lines. Though this side of the fire is distant from the primary fire camp in Lakeview, officials said that limited logistical support means that a secondary camp will not be set up in Paisley.
Task forces from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office are helping with mop-up on the north and south sides of the fire, but they are likely to head home by Wednesday.
"The great work the crews have accomplished on the fire has secured property and structures, for that reason the existing structure taskforces and overhead team are expected to demobilize tomorrow morning," fire officials continued. "Crews across the fire will continue to report all cattle found in or near the fire perimeter and have created a mapping system to assist livestock owners in locating their animals."
On Monday, fire crews began responding to a new fire in the region, burning in Klamath River Canyon between Klamath River Campground and Frain Ranch on the northwest side of the river. This area is located southwest of Keno in Klamath County, and south of Green Springs Highway.
The Bear Flat Fire was estimated at 50 acres as of Monday evening, "growing rapidly" up the canyon in steep, inaccessible terrain amid heavy timber. The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) said that multiple air and ground resources had responded to the fire, with more on the way.
"Campgrounds are closed. Area residents and visitors are asked to avoid Topsy Grade Road due to increased wildland firefighting traffic," SCOFMP said. "Fire danger is still Extreme in Klamath and Lake counties! Please be careful with anything that can spark a wildfire!"
The cause of the Bear Flat Fire is still under investigation. Despite hints that fire investigators are looking into human causes, the cause of the Cougar Peak Fire also remains undetermined.