Three helicopters expected by Saturday at Game Hog Creek Fire

Three helicopters expected by Saturday at Game Hog Creek Fire

The Game Hog Creek Fire grew to 133 acres, and the Oregon Department of Forestry has tapped additional helicopter support to fight the fire. 

Flames pushed past some of the lines fire crews built on Thursday, adding three acres to the 130 acre fire, bringing it to 133 acres at last count. 

The steep terrain continues to cause difficulties for firefighters.

One helicopter has been aiding firefighting efforts; another was added on Friday, and a third helicopter is expected to join the fight on Saturday. 

The helicopters, staging out of Buxton’s Hornshuh Creek Fire Station, have been dropping water on hot spots in order to reduce the amount of embers that can blow across fire lines. 

“Don’t be alarmed if you see some big aircraft in the area,” said Banks Fire District spokesperson Scott Adams.

“Before our new Hornshuh Creek Station we would have been unable to host these aircraft and they would have had to find a home base location, possibly further from this fire.  Because of the space now occupied and owned by the District we are able to provide a safe, wide-open space for these aircraft.  Their crews are also utilizing features in the new station designed for just this type of multi-agency emergency use,” Adams said.

Around 80 personnel are still fighting the fire, and today’s goal, ODF said in a press release, is to extend control lines down to Elk Creek.

Today’s cooler air, blowing in from the ocean, is expected to help firefighters. 

Previous Fire Updates

Thursday, July 15

Oregon Department of Forestry Forest Crew Coordinator Dillon Neumann scouts for containment line opportunities near Elk Creek. Photo: ODF

Efforts to fight the Game Hog Creek Fire continued overnight, and the Oregon Department of Forestry continues to express confidence in halting the wildfire’s spread.

The fire has burned over 130 acres as of Thursday.

“It held well overnight. We feel good about it,” said ODF Forest Grove District Forester Mike Cafferata in a phone call. 

Cafferata noted that the steep terrain in the Elk Creek area remains a challenge for firefighting efforts. 

Crews are trying to get a line into the steepest part of the canyon, but in the interim, a helicopter, staged out of Buxton’s Hornshuh Creek Fire Station, has been keeping the fire at bay in the steep terrain. 

“We’re not lined yet, we’re close – we feel good about it, though,” he said. 

Stimson and Hampton private engines aid with containment efforts. Photo: ODF

Wind — believed to be the cause of the fire originally jumping containment — proved a challenge again Wednesday evening.

“When those evening winds come up at the same time the sun hits that face, the fire picks up, and that is a challenge,” he said. “That’s when we flew the helicopter to try and keep it suppressed.”

“I think as long as the weather stays like it is, we think that Elk Creek, and the Highway 6 corridor is fine and we can keep it relatively in place,” Cafferata said. “As long as the weather stays moderate.”

Cafferata said crews are working hard to get the fire lined so that if the weather does change, what led to the fire growing from six acres to today’s 70 or more acres won’t happen again.

And while somewhat cooler temperatures in the forecast could help firefighting efforts, Cafferata said that this morning wasn’t as cool as hoped.

“It was clear and breezy by 10 o’clock,” he said. “It was not as cool and moist as we hoped, but we’ll take this over the heat dome.”

The fire, burning entirely within the Tillamook State Forest, lies in Tillamook County, but Cafferata said it’s right on the boundary between Tillamook and Washington Counties. Due to the steep terrain and time constraints, no one has walked the entire perimeter of the fire, so a firm answer on if the fire has dipped into Washington County was not known.

This story has been updated with the most recent size of the fire.

Previous ​fire updates

Wednesday evening

The Oregon Department of Forestry said that fire crews battling the Game Hog Creek Fire in the Tillamook State Forest have made “good progress” in halting the blaze. 

“Although the fire remains uncontained because fire lines are still being built, the fire’s spread was largely stopped at about 70 acres,” the agency said in a press release on Wednesday evening. 

During the hottest part of the day, a helicopter kept the fire in check. According to Banks Fire District spokesperson Scott Adams, the helicopter was staging from the Hornshuh Creek Fire Station in Buxton. 

“Helicopter operations will continue into the evening and they are seeking approvals to fly into the night. The helicopter will usually approach and depart from/to the west but winds could dictate any direction,” Adams said.

In the steepest parts of the terrain where the fire is burning, hand crews were unable to access the fire

Overnight, crews are expected to continue strengthening fire lines, with little fire growth expected Wednesday night. 

Thursday, crews expect to continue building containment lines and begin mopping up and cooling hot spots within the fire’s interior, if all goes well. 

Highways 6 and 26 remain open, while Drift Creek Road, Idiot Creek Road, and the Fear and Loaming Trail are closed. The Rogers Camp Trailhead is closed to the public for fire crews to stage at. Elk Creek Campground is open.

Earlier Wednesday afternoon update

The Game Hog Creek Fire is now estimated to be between 70 and 100 acres. 

“The main body of the fire appears manageable,” said Oregon Department of Forestry spokesperson Laura Fredrickson, who noted that the information came from fire crews on the ground. 

“The biggest issue is the fire fell back into the cliffs of Elk Creek again and due to the steep terrain in that basin, we are not putting people down there as it is too dangerous,” Fredrickson said. 

The Portland office of the National Weather Agency noted that smoke from the fire could drift into portions of Washington and Yamhill Counties.

Original story below

The Game Hog Creek Fire escaped fire lines Tuesday afternoon and is now growing in the Tillamook State Forest. 

The fire was estimated Wednesday morning to be around 70 acres in size. Overnight, crews estimated the fire was as large as 250 acres, an estimate that was reduced after ODF fire crews were able to scout the fire Wednesday morning.

“This is the recent report we got from this morning’s returning fire crew,” said ODF spokesperson Laura Fredrickson Wednesday morning.

“We aren’t sure what happened. We had 2 crews from [South Fork Forest Camp], a dozer and four engines working on it overnight,” said Oregon Department of Forestry Forest Grove District Forester Mike Cafferata in an email to this publication Wednesday morning. 

Tuesday night, ODF officials believe rising winds caused the fire to jump the control lines that had previously encircled the fire, which at the time, was six acres in size. 

“The patrol last night at 5:30 p.m. reported the fire was quiet,” ODf said in a press release. 

Sometime after 7 p.m. Tuesday night, things had changed. ODF crews responded to reports of fire spread. 

The fire is burning north of Highway 6 in the Idiot Creek and Drift Creek areas, and while the Elk Creek Campground remains open as of press time, smoke in the area may cause some campers to choose a different destination, ODF said.

Due to the wildfire, Drift Creek Road, Idiot Creek Road, the Rogers Camp Trailhead and the Fear and Loaming Trail are closed.  

More than 100 personnel are fighting the fire, with ODF crews from six districts, South Fork Forest Camp inmates, and crews from Hampton Lumber and Stimson Lumber Company all aiding the effort.

“There is no indication that this fire is moving in such a way as to endanger our residents. We will be closely monitoring this fire throughout the night and into tomorrow in case anything changes,” said Banks Fire District spokesperson Scott Adams on Tuesday night.

The Game Hog Creek Fire began on July 3. By Wednesday, July 7, Cafferata believed crews were ready to begin mop up of the fire.

“We are working to find safe ways to complete mop-up,”Cafferata wrote in an email sent July 7.

The fire was originally burning in the understory of a dense stand of timber on a steep slope, making access to the area difficult.

An initial investigation pointed to fireworks as the cause of the wildfire, but the cause remains under investigation and could change.

The fire was initially reported by a mountain biker.