USA–– GRANTS PASS Firefighters got permission Tuesday to use helicopters and chain saws to battle a bunch of small wildfires in a wilderness area along the Oregon-California border.
Federally designated wilderness areas are generally off limits to mechanized equipment such as ATVs and mountain bikes, but that restriction can be lifted by regional foresters.
Under less volatile conditions, firefighters would use hand saws rather than chain saws, and no helicopters would be used.
Fire crews wasted no time in taking advantage of the permission.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said five 20-person hand crews were joined by smokejumpers and a crew rappelling from a helicopter to fight six fires ignited by lightning two days ago in Red Buttes Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
The six fires covered a total of 15 acres. More resources were being readied.
This is all based on the fact that everything is so dry and theres been no rain and its just the prudent thing to do, Forest Service spokesman Joe Walsh said from Washington, D.C.
Its not a new rule or anything. They have the ability to do this in an effort to keep fire costs down, rather than letting something in a wilderness get out of control and then get out of the wilderness, he said.
Also on Tuesday, a lightning-sparked wildfire about 20 miles southwest of Lakeview in south-central Oregon has grown dramatically, burning across about 1,500 acres or more than two square miles.
The Barry Point Fire is burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest and private lands in a remote area between Klamath Falls and Summer Lake.
Forest Supervisor Fred Way said the fire is a holdover from Sundays lightning storm.
It grew quickly late Monday and Tuesday, aided by high temperatures, low humidity and lots of fuel.
Authorities are advising motorists to avoid Forest Service roads in the Dog Lake area because of increased fire vehicle traffic.