'We’re making large scale fire contingency plans now': Warmer weather may stoke blaze
“We want to make sure we’re staying ahead of this fire, so we’re making large scale fire contingency plans now,” said Eric Risdal, incident command trainee on the Type 3 overhead team managing the blaze.
Those plans include handing off to a Type 2 team. Northwest Coordination Center records show NW Team 7 under the command of Eric Knerr assigned to take over management of the fire.
Regional, state or national overhead teams manage wildland fires at different stages in the operation.
The initial attack on a fire is typically handled by local fire crews. If a fire is anticipated to take days or weeks to contain, state or national overhead teams with experience laying siege to wildfires take over management of firefighting operations.
The Type 2 team will take over on Monday and set up a fire camp at the Hoodoo Ski Area.
"The team transition is occurring due to potential growth of the fire driven by warmer forecasted temperatures," the Willamette National Forest said in a statement.
PHOTOS | Scenes from the Whitewater Fire
A commercial jet spotted smoke from the Whitewater Fire on Sunday, July 23.
Fire bosses suspect the blaze actually started in June with a lightning strike. The fire smoldered in obscurity before the right combination of wind, heat and dry weather fanned the flames into a forest fire.
The fire is now estimated at 89 acres and 15 percent contained.
Risdal said fire bosses have modified their tactics to protect public and private lands from the fire.
“We have released some of the firefighters and are bringing in heavy equipment to reduce fuels along road systems next to Whitewater Creek outside of the Mount Jefferson wilderness," he said.
On Friday, crews will work to strengthen existing fire lines with the the help of water drops from helicopters.
“I want to thank all the crews and helicopter pilots. They have done an amazing job adapting to the difficult conditions and a tough work environment,” Risdal said. “Each morning, the fire crews have hiked three to four miles through the wilderness to reach fire lines. Attitudes have been positive and we’ve had an excellent safety record so far.”