Sunday, July 14, 2019

Checto Bar Fire – Two Years Later

At Alfred Loeb State Park, Brookings Oregon

Map of the 2017 Chetco Bar Fire

On July 12, 2017 the Chetco Bar Fire was first spotted, started by lightning.  A week later the fire had grown to 300 acres.  By early August, the fire had grown to nearly 3,000 acres, and then the wind took over.  By mid-August the fire had grown to over 20,000 acres, by August 24th it was over 100,000 acres.  It took into November before the fire was contained…burning over 191,000 acres.  That year we were here at Loeb Park from about the time the fire started through July 30th when we moved to Gold Beach.  We had not heard of the fire while we were at Loeb, but heard about it fairly quick once we got to Gold Beach.  Loeb is just northeast of Brookings (bottom left on above map)…Gold Beach is in the upper left.  By August 7th we were at Huntly Park northeast of Gold Beach.  By the 20th of August we decided the smoke was bad, evacuation notices were going out, and we decided to head north on Monday the 21st, then east to I-5, and eventually back to Citrus Heights.

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

Saturday I drove over 15 miles from the campground and never did come to the end of the fire zone.  The devastation of the trees reminded me of the many areas we have seen that have had fire damage before….Yosemite’s Rim Fire, Yellowstone’s 1988 fire, and many others.  
2017 Chetco Bar Fire

2017 Chetco Bar Fire   2017 Chetco Bar Fire

The ride gave me a good idea of the fire’s magnitude along the North Bank Chetco River Road and National Forest Road 1376, but I could see that the fire continued northwest over the various ridges.  At mile marker 15 I turned back, and that is when I started taking pictures, so many of the pictures are headed south and west…I can’t remember what direction I was facing for all of them...sometimes I got out of the car, sometimes I did not.

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

There were a few areas where loggers have gone in and harvested some of the damaged trees…and this is an ongoing process.  They won’t be able to harvest the entire 191.000 acres, but many acres will be harvested.  Above is a picture of tree stumps where they harvested already.

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

2017 Chetco Bar Fire    2017 Chetco Bar Fire

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

There are many parts along the river that show little to no damage due to the fire.  There are a number of National Forest Campgrounds along the river ($10 per night, $5 with senior pass), and other areas that are free for day use and some boondocking, which may or may not be legal along the river outside of campgrounds.

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

And yes, they park right up to the water.  The rocks along the bank are typically the size of a fist…some bigger, many smaller.  The bank is very hard…although the rocks will move, for the most part the rock bed is very hard, and cars, trucks, trailers move right along it.

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

Evidence of the fire can be seen within 2 miles from the campground.  Here, if you look close, you can see a few trees with fire damage among an area of good healthy trees.  In fact, I can see fire damage on the hill from our campsite on the other side of the river. (no picture of that)

2017 Chetco Bar Fire

The firefighters, once called out, valiantly saved certain areas along the river, and Loeb State Park was definitely one of them.  In the Gardner Bar area there’s around 20 homes which were saved, but 3-4 up on the hill were lost.  I am sure it helped that there was a huge fire break between the small community and the mountain the fire came down…but still, firefighters had to work to save homes from burning ashes.

The fire burned six houses, forced 5,000 people to evacuate their homes and threaten communities from Brookings to Cave cost over 60 million to fight.  The strategy by the Forest Service was to allow the fire to burn out.  Other fires in the past had done so.  This one probably would have…except for when the Chetco winds added a blast-furnace of 45 MPH to the flames…things got out of control very quickly.

747 Super Tanker

This is a 747 Super Tanker…it can carry 19,000 gallons of water - and dump it all as fast as 7 seconds … just a few drops from it back in early July, and there would not have been a story.  

At Loeb State Park we were filled to capacity Friday and Saturday, but at 6:30 Sunday there were still 10 sites open.  The past two years we were here it seemed that the park was full just about every night.  Hey, not complaining, the less campsites being used, the quieter the park is.


  1. It's so sad to see all the damage. Just Mother Nature doing her thing, I suppose.

    1. In this case, many of the locals feel it was the Forrest Service NOT doing their thing...small fire for how many weeks that they just let burn turns into a 60 million dollar huge fire that nearly took out Brookings.


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