Smoke emerged from private timber lands 10 miles southeast of Bonanza on Thursday, June 19, quickly growing into the largest fire that the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) has responded to so far in 2014.
As fire crews were dispatched on Thursday the Bryant Fire quickly grew to 150 acres. The Lakeview Interagency Fire Center (LIFC), recently opened, dispatched a large contingent of fire suppression equipment and personnel including 14 engines, multiple aircraft, and 150 ground crew.
By Friday, June 20, the fire had expanded to 800 acres, fueled by pine and winds expected to add to the complexity of the fire. Structures were in the area, but none were in immediate danger. Management of the blaze was transferred to Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team 1 from the South Central Oregon Interagency type III incident management team.
The private landowner JWTR assisted with the fire suppression efforts, providing personnel and equipment. Despite the joint effort crews were unable to contain the fire, and additional crews were dispatched to assist.
As the fire grew additional crews were needed, drawing the majority of resources available in the SCOFMP area. By Monday, June 23, the size of the team covering the fire had grown to over 900 personnel utilizing 51 engines, 11 dozers, and multiple aircraft. A fire camp was set up at Bonanza High School. Infrared flights mapped the burn area to a size of 1,361 acres.
The rapid growth of the fire was fueled by an abundance of fire fuel, burning in mixed conifer, pine and dried brush that was killed due to frost.
“You can light wood with a match,” said Fire Operations Chief John Flanigan in regards to the dryness of the area resulting in easily-ignitable fuels.
As crews worked day and night to dig control lines, air crews dropped fire retardant to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the containment area. In areas too steep for dozers to operate hand crews did the laborious work of completing a line perimeter, completely encircling the fire by late Sunday.
While the cause is still under investigation, fire crews now begin the process of mop-up duty, digging out hot spots and extinguishing all remaining heat to prevent further flame-ups while the fire burns the remainder of its available fuel.
Although costing an estimated $2.6 million dollars, no structures were reported to have been destroyed and no injuries as a result of the blaze. A community meeting was held for Bonanza residents at the high school on Monday, June 23 to provide updates and interact with fire crews.
The Bryant Fire marks the first major wildfire of the summer season, one which is expected to be busy following a very dry winter.