Thirty homes and many more families were evacuated Friday night from one road in Warm Springs as a 1,000-acre fire crept closer to homes and firefighters worked to burn a line to stop it. The homes were being evacuated so fire crews could do an intentional burn-out operation so the Shitike Fire as it's now called won't get any closer to town and buildings. Fire officials say the 30 or so homes along the first six miles of Northwest Tenino Road are being evacuated and a Red Cross shelter is set up at the community center. They say it's so fire engines and personnel can easily get through the area as they try and stop the blaze.
Some Warm Springs Homes Evacuated
Another fire was threatening homes in the Sidwalter area, north of Highway 26. Fire officials were calling in a structural protection task force there as well. The 1,000-acre Shitike Fire is named for the river that runs through it. Earlier Friday, the fire was at just 300 acres, but it moved fast by nightfall, and crews were trying to keep it on open rangeland and not near homes. A hill literally on fire filled the air with smoke was of Warm Springs, and it's not just one fire, but many. "The terrain that we have, especially where these fires are at, the big ones in our Zone 1, that's a flash fuel-- grasses, sagebrush, juniper," said Bob Sjolund, Warms Springs Fire Management Public Information Officer, said. And that kind of fuel means a higher chance of larger fires -- and that has fire crews prepared. "Mother Nature comes in and throws some fire on the ground, and it burns again," Sjolund said. "I think there is an attrition that goes on for years. We learned to follow that pattern with history and today's technology, and we just prepare ourselves for that." Several big fires ignited on the Warm Springs Reservation Thursday, all likely started from lightning storms late Wednesday.
Other major blazes fought on the reservation included the 3,000-acre Seeksequa Fire on the Metolius Bench, moving west-southwest. Officials said they were keeping the Three Rivers community and residents along the Metolius River apprised. Also, the Oregon Department of Forestry and State Fire Marshals Office were in contact with residents in the Eyerly area -- no stranger to destructive wildfires -- to provide lookout and fire information.
Meanwhile, the Razorback Fire had blackened about 1,700 acres on the northeast side of the Mutton Mountains.
And, about 25 other fires sparked by lightning have been growing slowly on the west side of the reservation, with two major fires north of Olallie Butte and west of Mount Jefferson, in the Trout Lake area. Officials said those fires are in mixed conifer and heavy timber, but were not being staffed because they are inaccessible by roads.
Many other fires have lines around them, but continued to produce flare-ups Friday.
Over 300 firefighters were tackling the reservation's blazes. But with the rest of the region already coping with numerous fires, resources are limited. "They said there's 110 fires in Oregon, so resources are going to have to be from different regions, Southwest, maybe even further over," Sjolund said. As fires were being pushed into ridges, at least 30 homes and buildings on Northwest Tenino Road were being evacuated Friday night so that crews could do a burn out operation and stop the fire from advancing.
While structure protection crews will be posted along Tenino Road overnight, a Type 2 incident command team will come in the morning to take control, one more organized for fire planning and operation. Officials hope the public can be patient. "Be aware of road closures, be aware of the potential of disruption in summertime vacations, especially in the northeast part" of the reservation, Sjolund said. And with no containment figures yet, it's an uneasy feeling to drive away from your home and not know what you'll be returning to.