BEND, Oregon, August 1, 2013 (ENS) – A wildfire on the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon today claimed the life of a firefighter and sent another to the hospital with serious injuries.
The accident occurred as the two contract tree fallers from R&K Water Services out of Bonney Lake, Washington worked to suppress a lightning-sparked fire, which began early Wednesday afternoon and burned through the night.
The incident was reported at 9:13 am, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center. No names have yet been released.
The tree felling crew was working in the Mt. Washington Wilderness near Dugout Lake on the Sisters Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest when they were injured by a falling snag.
Rappel crews and a helicopter responded to the accident and called for an ambulance. One of the individuals died at the scene and the other was transported to St. Charles Medical Center in the city of Bend.
Lieutenant Chad Davis of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department says names of victims being withheld, pending notification of next of kin.
When Deschutes County Sheriff deputies and search and rescue personnel arrived, they were unable to enter the scene due to the high level of fire activity in the area, said Lt. Davis. Fire crews are currently working to control the fire, so the deceased worker’s body can be recovered.
The Deschutes and Willamette National Forests are proposing prescribed burns for selected areas in the Three Sisters Wilderness and the Mt. Washington Wilderness to improve firefighter and public safety. The proposed burns would create breaks in the continuous vegetation, “resulting in conditions that could improve opportunities to allow lightning-caused fires play their natural role in the wilderness,” forest officials say.
Southern Oregon continues to be the focus of firefighting activity in the state with numerous large fires burning in the region.
The 28,496-acre, lightning-caused Douglas Complex fires are burning seven miles north of Glendale in Douglas County, Oregon and are just seven percent contained.
The Douglas Complex is now the highest priority nationally for resources.
At least 470 homes are threatened and some communities are under evacuation orders. The Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal is managing the fire jointly with Oregon Department of Forestry.
The Oregon Military Department and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management are assisting with response to the Douglas Complex. The Oregon Army National Guard is providing aviation assets at the request of the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Governor John Kitzhaber has declared a State of Emergency for Josephine County.
In Josephine County, personnel spent a large part of the day accessing the area from aircraft and reported challenging terrain, limited access, and active fire conditions.
Fire officials say they have spent $2.3 million dollars so far to control the Douglas Complex fire.
Three new large fires were reported today in the West. Firefighters contained both the Mountain Fire in California and the Fir Grove Fire in Idaho.
The National Interagency Fire Information Center in Boise, Idaho says the Northwest remains firefighters’ biggest concern today, especially due to the forecast of upcoming thunderstorms.
Currently, 225,947 acres are ablaze in seven states: Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
In 2013 to date, 28,016 wildfires have consumed 2,336,185 acres across the country.