Although Black Butte Ranch residents were evacuated for a second time during the GW Fire, the threat was over quickly, and no homes were lost. Almost as soon as the wildfire began its terrifying run toward the community, it was over. Much of the fuel had been removed through a combination of firefighters’ efforts and previous fuels treatments, and much of the heat was taken away by a change in the weather.

The GW Fire was stopped only a ½ mile west of Black Butte Ranch, thanks, in part, to a fuels treatment designed to restore a ponderosa pine stand and reduce the threat of wildfire in the wildland urban interface. Over the course of several years, fuels specialists from the Deschutes National Forest thinned and burned the area just west of Black Butte Ranch, creating a healthier stand of trees and a more open site that was less capable of supporting a crown fire.

In 2007, the test arrived and the treated stands performed as expected. The wind-driven fire moved from the tree canopy to the ground and the recently created open spaces allowed crews to quickly find and suppress spot fires started by embers from the main fire. Taking advantage of the decrease in fire intensity and a reduction in winds, crews and equipment worked throughout the night to create and hold seven miles of fireline.

GW fuels treatment

Without the fuels treatments, the outcome could have been different. Only a few years before, embers from the Cache Mountain fire ignited fuels around the Ranch as the main head of the fire spread quickly toward homes. In what seemed like a matter of minutes, two homes were lost and hundreds of others were threatened. The char pattern from the finger of fire that extended into the Ranch exists today and serves as a reminder for the continued need for defensible space – on private lands within the resort community, as well as on the federally-managed public lands surrounding the idyllic site.

For more information, contact Lisa Clark, Fire Mitigation Specialist, at lmclark@or.blm.gov.