Wildfire detection within the south Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) is accomplished by two systems: fixed and aerial.
Fixed detection refers to the fire lookouts, those familiar small buildings with windows on fours sides, perched on strategic vantage points, that have been used for fire detection since before World War I. Though much fewer in numbers today, their role is no less important. Lookouts serving South Central Oregon are owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as well as the Forest Service. Staffing is determined year-by-year and unit-by-unit based on fire severity and budget considerations.
|Bald Mountain||Fremont NF, Silver Lake RD||Walker Range FPA|
|Bryant Mountain||Lakeview District BLM||Oregon Dept. of Forestry|
|Dog Mountain||Fremont NF, Lakeview RD||Lakeview RD|
|Green Mountain||Lakeview District BLM||Lakeview District BLM|
|Hager Mountain||Fremont NF, Silver Lake RD||Silver Lake RD|
|Horsefly||Fremont NF, Bly RD||Bly RD|
|Morgan Butte||Fremont NF, Paisley RD||Paisley RD|
|Spodue||Fremont NF, Bly RD||Bly RD|
All these lookouts communicate through the Lakeview Interagency Fire Center (LIFC) on common radio channels. Lookouts on neighboring units-in Oregon, California and Nevada-also support our detection effort.
Yellow Peak (Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge) and Lookout Rock (Fremont NF, Bly RD) are staffed on an as-needed basis. Bald Butte (Fremont NF, Paisley RD) and Drake Peak (Fremont NF, Lakeview RD) are no longer staffed but are maintained as rentals to the general public.
When a lookout spots a smoke, they use the Osborne fire finder to determine an azimuth (compass bearing), distance and approximate location and transmits this information to LIFC via radio. At LIFC, dispatcher often use azimuths from two or more lookouts to determine a fire's legal (township/range/section) location and will relay this information to the units responding to the fire.
Aerial detection-usually referred to as "recon"-is initiated after a lightning event or anytime local fire managers believe there is a likelihood of fire occurrence. There are no agency-owned aircraft in South Central Oregon, so when aerial recon is ordered, LIFC relies on agency-approved, privately-owned aircraft. Our most frequent provider of recon and other fixed-wing aircraft services is Goose Lake Aviation, located at the Lake County Airport in Lakeview.
Once an aircraft is engaged, a trained observer joins the pilot to fly a predetermined pattern over the area. Modern technology enable LIFC to track lightning storms by computer and often the aerial observer will be given a map showing the approximate locations of all lightning strikes in the area.
When recon spots a smoke, they use an on-board GPS unit to determine its location by latitude and longitude and radio this in to LIFC, along with its size and characteristics. At LIFC, dispatchers use a computer program to convert the lat/long to a legal description and will then dispatch appropriate suppression forces to this location.
Another easily-overlooked part of the detection program is the general public. Few smokes grow to significant sized without being observed by a landowner or recreation enthusiast and the growing ownership of cellular phones has greatly increased the public's ability to report wildland fires. When a citizen reports a fire, LIFC tries to get the callers name, location and return phone number first, then the information of the fire's location and characteristics. Often responding resources need more information to find a small fire and the ability to call back and visit with the citizen to ask questions is important.