CULVER, OR -- Crews held the Juniper Creek Fire, burning west of Lake Billy Chinook, inside fire lines Monday. It's estimated at 106 acres and 30% contained. Mop-up operations are underway and evacuation orders were reduced to Level Two. It's burnign on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected private land.
The firefight has been a difficult one. "The smoke has limited our visibility for aircraft and any kind of air support," ODF's Ben Duda tells KBND News. And on the ground, he says, the terrain is so rough, water tenders lost a few tires, "A lot of it is just the rocks and, for a swiftly moving fire, to get vehicles to it, it really slows us down to almost a walking speed. Five to 10 miles an hour is pretty maximum once you get off the main roads."
Duda is with the Fire Management team working the Juniper Creek Fire. He credits a swift initial attack, "We had a lot of resources available at the time to pounce on this. As well as, in the area, there’s actually one of our smoke detection cameras that scans the area. We were able to log into that and take a look at what was being reported and see the smoke growing and amplify our response, right out of the gate." And he says, crews were ready, "We had a strike team from northwest Oregon, of ODF engines, that were pre-staged in Prineville just kind of on the tail end of that heatwave we had last week - and the forecast; hints of lightning - that came into play. They were a great asset to have locally, here, for the initial attack." Teams from Black Butte Ranch, Lake Chinook Fire and other local agencies were also quick to respond Sunday.
The fire was likely preventable, "We suspect human-caused. We haven’t had lightning in the area for a while," says Duda, "So, there is an investigation team that’s taking a closer look at that." He is optimistic crews will wrap up operations quickly, within the next few days.