Chetco fire not going out

Elizabeth Stoeger, Staff writer

The Chetco Bar fire in southwest Oregon continues to burn as Linfield students from Brookings and Gold Beach begin the year with more on their minds than exams.

Declared Oregon’s largest wildfire, the Chetco Bar fire has spread over more than 142,000 acres and is creeping toward Illinois Valley. More than 4,500 people have already been evacuated and air quality problems persist, according to the Statesman Journal.

Located near the California border, Brookings is the town nearest to the largest fire. The fire began when lightning struck in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest on July 12 and has been expanding quickly.

It does not appear that the fire is moving towards Brookings, said U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Terry Krasco.

The small coastal town of Gold Beach is also close but is also not in the direct path of the fire.

“It’s kind of freaky . . . It’s not the kind of thing you ever expect to happen and then it does,” said Soli Gustafson, ‘18, who hails from Gold Beach and still has family there.

Gold Beach is largely protected by the ocean but it has been damaged by flames before. The 2002 Biscuit Fire was one of the largest recorded in state history.

This time, Gustafson said she knows friends that have been affected but she and her family were not directly impacted.

Firefighters are scrambling to contain not only the Chetco Bar fire but the 18 other wildfires that have popped up all across Oregon.

Residents along the McKenzie Highway corridor were issued Level 1 evacuation notices by Lane County, advising them to be ready to leave their homes if it becomes necessary.

Gustafson said that while no one from Gold Beach has had to evacuate, the town still has a plan in place, “I do know that there are places in town for people to evacuate to.”

Hunter Creek and Pistol River, two small communities close to the town, were forced to evacuate.

“Apparently the sky was red, ” said Gustafson about the dismal air conditions in Gold Beach.

In places that are not directly affected by the fires, unhealthy air quality has become a persistent headache.

Visitors and residents all over Oregon were afraid that the air quality would be an obstacle to visibility during the historic total eclipse on August 21.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival was also forced to cancel a handful of performances in its outdoor venue due to poor air conditions from the wildfires.

They were forced to cancel the crowd-pleaser “Beauty and the Beast” and a production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was halted after 45 minutes due to the heavy smoke.

In addition, during the height of the summer camping season, burning bans were issued all over the state in an attempt to squelch any potential fires before they began.