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The Upper McKenzie Community Center during the Lookout Fire

On Saturday, August 5th, just after our annual Ice Cream Social, lightning struck on Lookout Mountain, about 4 miles NE of McKenzie Bridge, at 5pm and started the Lookout Fire.

At first, the fire seemed to be somewhat contained within the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, but east winds and hot temperatures quickly spread the fire towards the town of McKenzie Bridge.

Very quickly, the Upper McKenzie Community Center was made available to local and state agencies as a meeting place. Soon, the UMCC was turned into the Lane County Sheriff's command center. The Lane County Sheriff determines the evacuation zones, among many other things, during a wildfire.

On August 13th, the Lookout Fire crested over the ridge and started to make its way down the mountain towards the towns of Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge. Evacuation orders were increased, and many went up to a Level 3, Get out now. The UMCC remained in Level 1, Get Ready and the Sheriff's Office maintained their command center at the UMCC.

On August 17th, firefighters worked in triple digit tempatures to clear brush, limb up trees and fortify the Upper McKenzie Community Center. These tasks help protect our structure from fire embers that can travel up to several miles from the main body of the fire.

We are SO GRATEFUL for these firefighters who worked their butts off in the heat to protect our historic building!

Photos by Rachel Brozovich.

Structural crews completed preparation work on the Belknap Bridge. Protection of this historical landmark included the installation of a sprinkler system, fed by a mobile water reservoir and a portable pump.

On 8/25, there were just over 1,000 personnel working to manage and suppress the Lookout Fire. Some resources assigned were even local to McKenzie Bridge. Pictured here are firefighters from the McKenzie River Ranger District handcrew. They worked in challenging conditions, conducting strategic firing operations, and, strengthening control lines to protect their community.

Photos by Molly Kirkpatrick

Then, on August 27th, lightning struck again. This time lightning started the Pothole Fire and the Horse Creek Fire, which was about 5 miles south east of McKenzie Bridge. Fire crews, equipment and air resources were actively engaged in full suppression efforts, but winds and dry fuels were once again challenging their efforts. Evacuation levels were increased again, and the new threat of the Horse Creek Fire was now coming from the other side of McKenzie Bridge.

Around September 1st, the weather started to cooperate more and the fires were starting to be contained. Firefighters started "mopping up" which means they make sure the fire is completely extinguished before declaring containment.

By September 13th, The Lookout Fire was 50% contained, and the Horse Creek Fire and Pothole Fire were 90% contained. Our community was breathing a sigh of relief and evacuation zones were decreasing and lifting.

The fires left a mosaic pattern in the forest, which is encouraging for regrowth.

On October 10th, The Lookout Fire was 100% contained and fire crews, Sheriff's office, and all support withdrew from our area.

The Upper McKenzie Community Center is grateful that we can support our community in so many ways. We are thankful that we were able to serve as a command center for the Sheriff's office and a meeting place for firefighters and support staff during the Lookout Fire. The UMCC will continue to play a pivotal role in our community during future disasters in our area, acting as a vital hub for support, information, and resource coordination.

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