The Cougar Peak Fire, burning approximately 15 miles northwest of Lakeview, doubled in size Thursday night to 83,339 acres after exhibiting “significant fire activity,” according to a news release from fire crews. The fire is burning primarily to the northeast on the Lakeview Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands.
There’s still no containment, and the fire’s cause is under investigation.
However, incident command expects minimal fire behavior Friday, thanks to widespread measurable rain over the region early Friday morning and cooler temperatures throughout the day. Some Klamath Falls weather stations received more than half an inch of rain since Thursday evening, while stations west of Lakeview near the Cougar Peak Fire received smaller but measurable amounts of precipitation.
“The wetting rains over the fire early this morning considerably moderated fire behavior,” the release said. “Today will be a favorable day for firefighters, as the rain has cooled the fire’s edge and will allow for more direct operations along the perimeter.”
Fire behavior was extreme Thursday morning, with a pyro-cumulonimbus plume developing along the fire’s northern boundary. These cloud formations are thunderstorms generated by convection from the fire’s heat combined with unstable atmospheric conditions. They contain very little moisture but can produce abundant lighting, posing danger to firefighters.
Growth remained largely to the north, thanks to strong winds, with little expansion on the east and west flanks of the fire. Firefighters kept ahead of the north flank to protect structures and construct contingency lines to protect the community of Valley Falls. They’re also constructing dozer lines on the southern edge of the fire.
According to the release, crews Friday are focusing on the fire’s eastern edge, taking advantage of the precipitation to construct dozer and handlines there.
Northwest Incident Management Team 8 and the Oregon State Fire Marshal Incident Management Blue Team are currently managing the Cougar Peak Fire. Their incident command post is located at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeview.
The Fremont-Winema National Forest has issued an emergency closure for the fire area, including a number of trailheads and recreation areas between Lakeview and Quartz Mountain, north of Highway 140.