PRINEVILLE, OR -- Strong winds and warm temperatures in the Ochocos pushed the Desolation Fire south out of the wilderness, earlier this week, threatening infrastructure along Highway 26. "It kinda took a little run toward the southeast and toward the Mount Bachelor Academy area," says Lisa Clark, with Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch.
Clark says aerial efforts were no longer enough, and firefighters are now working to suppress the blaze. "This was actually a lightning fire, it was burning in heavy fuel, with a lot of downed wood and snags in the area, so fire officials just took the initial strategy of just using air tankers, but after a couple of days when it started to become more active, we brought in ground crews." She told KBND News Wednesday, "Right now, we have about 75 and we've ordered six additional ground crews, so we expect to have about 185 personnel on the line." Highway 26 is still open, but the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to have crews on-hand to help keep traffic flowing and ensure easy access for fire personnel.
Nearby residents are urged to be ready to evacuate. Level Two warnings remain in place for the Marks Creek area, and the Forest Service has expanded temporary road, trail and area closures.
An infrared flight mapped the fire at 1,568 acres, Wednesday night; it's still 0% contained. With more personnel and a shift in the weather predicted, Clark is optimistic. "We're seeing a cooling trend coming in the future. We're hoping by Friday temperatures drop, and we'll be even luckier if we get a little frost at night that will help decrease fire behavior significantly." Smoky conditions will continue Thursday in the vicinity of the fire, along Highway 26 in the Ochoco Divide area.
A community meeting will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. at Eastside Church in Prineville (3174 NE Third Street).