Cattle in Bly graze during sunset near the Bootleg Fire July 18. Scientists at the University of Idaho are researching the harm particulate matter does to dairy cows. (CNS photo/David Ryder, Reuters)
Cattle in Bly graze during sunset near the Bootleg Fire July 18. Scientists at the University of Idaho are researching the harm particulate matter does to dairy cows. (CNS photo/David Ryder, Reuters)
While the number of active fires declined in late August, many may continue to burn for months — and they remain potentially deadly for those battling them.

Frumencio Ruiz Carapia, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Medford, died while fighting the Gales Fire, a blaze in the Middle Fork Complex.

The complex of fires, 9 miles north of Oakridge in the Willamette National Forest, was sparked by lightning July 29 and was 12% contained at just shy of 30 square miles Aug. 30.

Lane County has issued Level 1 (be ready to evacuate if needed) and Level 3 (go now because danger is imminent) notices, and air quality in Oakridge, home of St. Michael Parish, was in the unhealthy range Aug. 24. The parish has many older parishioners and several have left town to escape the dangerous air.

Farther west, members of Springfield, Eugene and Creswell parishes, all in Lane County, have not been evacuated and the air quality was rated healthy the week of Aug. 24.

“It’s been quiet and cool and we are hoping for rain in September,” said Joan Goossens, business manager at St. Philip Benizi Parish in Creswell.

To the north, the Dominicans at their retreat house in McKenzie Bridge were relieved the Knoll Fire, at 544 acres, was 50% contained and no longer posed a threat. The fire is in a monitor and patrol status. Meanwhile the Bruler Fire, east of St. Mary in Albany, is 75% contained at 195 acres.

To the south, the Rough Patch Complex, east of Roseburg, has grown to nearly 49 square miles and was merely 11% contained Aug. 30. The nearby Jack Fire is seeing minimal growth after burning 37 square miles and is 53% contained. Both are ablaze in the Umpqua National Forest.

Father José Manuel Campos Garcia, pastor of St. Francis Xavier in Sutherlin and St. Joseph in Roseburg, recently spoke with two firefighters. “They took some time from battling fires to attend one of our Masses,” he said.

No members of either parish have needed to evacuate, said the priest, though the smoke was so bad a few weeks ago it was “nearly impossible to go outside.”

The air quality the week of Aug. 23 was moderately healthy.

The Bull Complex, a set of fires burning 12 miles northeast of Detroit since Aug. 3, is covering 16.2 square miles of timber as of Aug. 30. There are 460 firefighters working the complex with four helicopters and 18 fire engines.

Since the fires are threatening no structures, crews have not focused on containment at the edges, but instead have taken advantage of milder weather to start controlled burns that will allow firefighters to work the fire’s edges later from safer areas.

Meanwhile, helicopter crews are dropping water on hotspots.

The mornings may be moderately smoky in the Santiam area because of an inversion effect. But air quality is expected to be moderate from Salem eastward to the Cascades.

John Gottfried, a member of St. Catherine Mission in Mill City, went rafting on the McKenzie River east of Eugene and found the air smoky there. He returned home to the Santiam area and was pleasantly surprised.

“It is better here than down there,” Gottfried said.

While only a small number of fires have been sparked in Oregon’s coastal area, all have been mopped up and smoke from the state’s other fires has predominately drifted away from the coastline.

East of the Cascades in the Baker Diocese, firefighters made progress on a half dozen fires. About 312 firefighters were fighting the 15-square-mile Fox Complex Fire west of Lakeview as of Aug. 30.