Cheney Creek Fire may have been arson

·2 min read

Jul. 21—Fire crews have completely lined a 29-acre wildfire south of Wilderville that may have been set intentionally, according to a news advisory from Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District.

Crews started mop-up operations this morning on the Cheney Creek Fire, located on Marble Mountain south of Wilderville, which was reported at about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

At one point Wednesday evening, firefighters were reported to be battling numerous spot fires.

Crews made excellent progress on the fire overnight, ODF reported. The fire is affecting Bureau of Land Management and private land along Cheney Creek Road. Relative humidity overnight did not recover as expected, and as a result, the fire remained active overnight, with multiple fallen trees and spot fires affecting the fire line. Firefighters have also had to deal with rolling boulders on the slope, posing a significant safety concern, ODF said.

Crews Thursday plan to continue mop-up operations while watching for potential spread and additional spot fires. Their goal is to mop up 50 to 75 feet into the perimeter of the fire, ODF reported.

More than 120 people are assigned to the fire, including five 20-person crews, four engines, two water tenders and two fallers. District aircraft are assigned to the fire and will be available as needed.

After the fire was reported Wednesday, multiple resources including engines, a water tender and a bulldozer were dispatched, however, due to the remote location, numerous aircraft were sent, including two type 2 helicopters, the ODF Helitack crew in the district's type 3 helicopter, a single-engine air attack plane, Air Tanker 104, and a Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest type 1 helicopter.

Aircraft were able to quickly get over the fire and begin water bucket drops while firefighters continued to find access points to the fire on the ground. When firefighters first arrived, the blaze was estimated to be three-quarters of an acre. Resources from ODF, BLM and private companies began an aggressive initial attack that extended into the evening.

Tanker 104 was able to drop four loads of retardant, and helicopters made numerous water bucket drops before they had to land for the evening. Night resources were ordered, and firefighters remained engaged overnight, ODF reported.

Investigators will be on scene Thursday to continue their efforts to determine the cause of the blaze. Reports indicated someone may have intentionally set numerous fires. Investigators will be looking into these claims, ODF reported.

No evacuations were ever put in place on the incident.

As the week progresses, temperatures near the fire are expected to decrease, and overnight humidity recoveries are expected to improve, allowing firefighters an advantage on the fireline in the coming days.