CULVER, OR -- The Akawana Fire, southwest of Lake Billy Chinook continues to threaten homes, forcing residents in the Three Rivers and nearby subdivisions to get prepared for possible evacuations. Adjusted estimates put the size of the blaze at 1,930 acres. Approximately 912 homes in the Three Rivers Grandview Area remain under a Level Two evacuation notice, indicating they need to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Governor Brown invoked the Conflagration Act Wednesday afternoon, approving the use of state resources to help battle the blaze.
The fire was spotted Tuesday afternoon, after lightning was spotted across the region. Kassidy Kern, with the Deschutes National Forest, says conditions are perfect for fires to grow. "Across Central Oregon, actually in the past 72 hours, we’ve had about 2,000 lightning strikes; and that’s from about the southern edge of the Deschutes National Forest near Crescent, up north of the Ochoco Mountains, and north of that still, into the upper Columbia Basin." She tells KBND News, "The Northwest Coordination Center has predicted a normal fire year for us, but we have been seeing unseasonably warm temperatures around Central Oregon, which is why it’s dry enough to carry fire. Out of the 24 starts we’ve had in the last 72 hours, we’ve had two large fires. One is the Akawana Fire, near Lake Billy Chinook. But, we also have an about 400-acre fire one mile from the John Day River, up north near Grass Valley."
It's early in the season and Kern says they're bracing for a busy next few months. "I think that we’re going to have to put our boots on for this fire season, at least right now. This is a time where we’re seeing a lot of lightning activity. Last year, we were exceptionally dry, but we didn’t get the ignition source, you know, we didn’t have the lightning storms."
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, the fire is 30% contained and is burning on private forestland protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Flames are being pushed by 15-20 MPH winds and is burning in heavy dead and downed fuels. About 400 firefighters and support staff are expected to work the fire, Thursday.