Four 20-member crews working on mopping up the 550-acre Newberry 2 Fire north of La Pine were shipped to new wildfires Monday, leaving 300 still on the lines.
Fire bosses still expect to declare the blaze controlled at 6 p.m. Tuesday, two days after crews contained the blaze within 6 1/2 miles of fire lines.
La Pine High School has been turned into an impromptu fire camp — a place for food, sleep and cleanup for the firefighters. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Several Oregon fires part of 4 million acre tally
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (http://www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/nfn.html#Oregon) the state’s biggest blaze was the 11,000-acre Kern Fire, 25 miles south of Vale, which neared containment Monday. The biggest trouble was being caused by the 8,900-acre Tamarack Creek Fire, 50 miles west of John Day, which threatened several ranches and commercial timber stands. The lightning-caused Slide Mountain Fire has blackened 400 acres in the Strawberry Wilderness Area of the Malheur National Forest, 10 miles south of Prairie City. National Guard helicopters are helping battle that fire.
About 4 million acres have gone up in smoke so far this summer in what authorities are calling the worst Western fire season in a half-century. All 11 Western states are reporting very high to extreme fire danger, with little if any change is expected in Oregon’s recent run of hot, dry weather for the next week to 10 days — and forecasters also predict a return of thunderstorms with dry lightning over much of the state later this week.
The fire near La Pine began Thursday afternoon, burning easterly about a mile south and parallel to Paulina Lake Road (also known as Road 21). It began within a mile of the Newberry Estates subdivision, but no structures were threatened and no evacuations were expected.
Blaze expanded on Awbrey Hall anniversary
Crews earlier had managed to complete a hose lay around the perimeter of the Newberry 2 Fire at 300 acres, but more accurate mapping led to the bigger size, said Terri Gates of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center. Paulina Lake Road was temporarily closed in three areas but reopened at 9 p.m. Friday, officials said.
The sound of engines could be heard over most of Central Oregon late Friday as two air tankers made round-robin runs until nightfall from Redmond Air Center to drop chemical retardant and slow the flames’ advance, Gates said. It was a memory-stirring sight and sound on the 10th anniversary of the Awbrey Hall Fire, which raced toward Bend the night of Aug. 4, 1990. That fire, later determined to be arson, destroyed 22 homes and caused an estimated $9 million in property damage, although a wind shift spared more of west and south Bend from destruction.
Cabins at lake not evacuated
The blaze apparently was human-caused, like the vast majority of this summer’s wildfires in the region, but the exact cause remained under investigation. Cabins at the lakes were not in danger and not vacuated, Gates said, but people staying there were being kept up to date on the status of the fire.
A Type II “overhead team” of fire bosses, based in Central Oregon, was dispatched to the wilderness fire on the Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon, so an Oregon Department of Forestry team was called in to oversee the Newberry 2 firefight, Gates said.
The Newberry 2 Fire broke out Thursday evening and sent a stream of brown smoke northward across the Bend-area skies.
The fire, reported at 5:14 p.m., burned in fairly dense lodgepole pine and brush. A second fire, about a quarter-acre in size, was reported five minutes later near Wickiup Junction but was quickly contained, dispatchers said.
Fire officials warned that current Central Oregon conditions are extreme and as dry as is normally seen in late August. They urged residents and visitors to be careful with fire and know regulations before striking a match.
Fire north of Prineville controlled
The new blazes erupted just as firefighters declared control of the 150-acre Coon Creek Fire, a stubborn blaze that burned on state-protected lands 16 miles north of Prineville. The blaze was reported Monday afternoon and contained by crews on Wednesday evening. Mop-up crews remain on that fire, the cause of which is under investigation.
Firefighters worked in heat and rugged terrain to dig lines around that blaze, which broke out on timberland owned by the Ochoco Lumber Co.