Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Central Oregon is on Fire!

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 10:43 AM

A plume of smoke in Warm Springs yesterday.
  • A plume of smoke in Warm Springs yesterday.

That haze over Pilot Butte? That tingle in your eyes and nose? The clouds visible north of town, and now south? Two separate human- caused wildfires are blazing through Central Oregon and neither are well contained.

The Sunnyside Turnoff Fire started mid-morning Saturday near Warm Springs. It's consumed 22,320 acres, is only 20% contained, and isn't expected to be fully controlled until Sunday. We sent a writer to the scene yesterday and she's reported back that, despite the large blaze and a number of evacuations, both community members and wildland firefighters seem calm and almost nonchalant. Everyone in the area in preparing for a long fight—perhaps longer than the predicated Sunday containment date. A tribal member told our reporter that a couple houses had already succumbed to flames near the Warm Springs national fish hatchery. With steep terrain, low humidity (currently 12%), high winds, and temps in the mid-90s, fire-fighting efforts may prove extremely challenging.

This morning the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center announced the following closure:

The Prineville BLM is closing a portion of the Lower Deschutes River as a precaution against the Sunnyside Turnoff Fire on the Warm Springs Reservation. The fire has burned down to the river and has the potential to jump the river endangering rafters. As a result, the Lower Deschutes River is closed from the Warm Springs put-in (River Mile 98) to Nena (River Mile 59). Rafters can use their boater pass for Segments 2,3 and 4 today instead. The closure is temporary and will be lifted as soon as possible.

Yesterday, another fire blew up near LaPine. Dubbed the Stagecoach Fire, because of its proximity to Old Stagecoach Road about eight miles northeast of Gilchrist, has burned 350 acres and is also due to human negligence. The fire is only 10% contained.

Read our feature story next week in which one of our writers goes behind the Warm Springs fire lines to see what fighting fires ACTUALLY looks like.

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