PRINEVILLE, OR -- Investigators now say a wildfire reported Tuesday in the Ochocos was caused by an abandoned campfire. Kassidy Kern, with the Ochoco National Forest, says there are often obvious clues in human-caused wildfires. "If you have a campfire ring and there’s a distinct black pattern that runs away from that and into nearby vegetation, it actually is not rocket science, as it turns out," she tells KBND News, "There are certain things that could not be more of an arrow pointing directly to the cause of the fire."
Firefighters quickly responded, holding the fire to 25 acres. "This Bear Creek Fire really was a bit of a wakeup call for us. And I hope that we all take it for what it was," says Kern, "This could’ve been a bad deal and it ended up being okay and we had the air support available close by to assist firefighters. But we can’t let our guard down." The Bear Creek Fire is at least the 157th human-caused fire in Central Oregon this season, compared to just 59 started by lightning.
Kern says, "We’re still under those elevated conditions, that if we do get an ignition, it’s much more likely to stand up and want to take a run." Cooler fall weather usually brings overnight humidity. But that hasn't materialized yet, "We are not seeing the humidity recoveries at night and our temperatures are hotter than normal. So, we aren’t getting that break where our fuels might be able to suck up a little bit more moisture, so they’re more dry, it’s hotter - so any fire that starts is going to spread more, and we do have some breezy conditions." Those breezy conditions are blamed for a new smoke column in the Petes Lake Fire area Thursday, visible from Bend.
Even hotter weather is expected this weekend, and potentially gusty east winds.
Photo courtesy Central Oregon Fire Management Service.