Despite the unfavorable weather conditions, fire crews battling the 416 Fire reported progress on Wednesday.
Crews successfully completed a burnout operation along the hand line to Forest Road 171 (near Junction Creek Campground) south of Buck Creek Drainage on the southwest portion of the fire. The burnouts significantly reduced ground fuels in the area and will allow fire managers to safely mitigate future fire growth along the Junction Creek corridor.
The burnouts played a role in the increase of the fire, which is now at 37,488 acres and is 37 percent contained.
Crews will spend today improving and strengthening the existing fire line north of Wednesday’s burnout operation. Helicopters will drop water along the line and retardant aircraft will assist in cooling the fire’s edge in an effort to create another containment line.
“We’re going to be using a lot of aircraft today,” spokesman Steve Kliste said.
Fire officials expected an increase in fire activity in the north and northwest portions of the fire. Fire officials predict that the increase in fire behavior will cause a lot of smoke that will be visible from U.S. Highway 550.
Officials will again be facing adverse weather conditions, because a red flag warning for the fire area was issued for Thursday because of an increase in daytime temperatures, strong southwest surface winds and a reduction of relative humidity. A fire weather watch was issued for Friday because of continued hot and dry conditions over the next 24 to 36 hours.
Meteorologists expected the wind direction to shift to from the southwest Thursday, which could push smoke to the northeast. Fire officials don’t expect the smoke to reach Silverton, but the town could see smoke on Friday.
According to fire officials, $27 million has been spent so far to fight the fire.