BEND, OR -- Oregon saw more than 870 lightning strikes from Sunday to Monday morning, sparking at least 19 fires in that timeframe. Carol Connolly, at the Northwest Coordination Center, says that storm is believed to be responsible for two neighboring fires. Windigo was reported first, 20 miles southwest of La Pine. "The local unit, which is the Umpqua National Forest - which has the Windigo Fire, ordered a team," Conolly said, referring to an Incident Management team, "But they also said, under the direction of that team, they’d also like to include the Potter Fire, which is on the Willamette National Forest. So, this one team, working for two forests to manage the resources of both fires, because they’re so close together."
As of Tuesday morning, the Windigo Fire is estimated at 1300 acres with zero containment; its cause is undetermined. The Potter Fire is estimated at 400 acres, also with zero containment. Investigators have confirmed it started by lightning.
Connolly says a variety of resources are now on-scene, working both fires, "We have Hotshot crews, Type 2 IA crews; there’s various pieces of equipment: engines, water tenders, etc. They’re working on setting up where fire camp will be and they’re setting up on how the management of those two collectively will go." A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail is also closed.
Central Oregon’s largest wildfire is burning in Jefferson County. The 280-acre Fly Creek Fire [pictured] started Sunday when lightning moved through the area, forcing evacuations of two campgrounds near Lake Billy Chinook. "It was a really fast-moving fire. It was burning in grass, brush and juniper and those fuels were pretty dry. Firefighters responded with three heavy air tankers, in addition, so we had air support as well," says Kaitlyn Webb, with the Central Oregon Fire Management Service.
Managers say lines held overnight and the Fly Creek Fire did not grow; it's still 280 acres, and is now 25% contained. The latest update issued Tuesday morning notes, "Seven engines, two handcrews, Prineville IHC, four water tenders and two dozers are on scene today. Air support will be available as needed and will be dipping out of Lake Billy Chinook. Portions of the lake will be closed for public safety again today where air resources are working." The Level 2 evacuation notice for Three Rivers was reduced to Level 1, Tuesday morning. However, Level 3 "go now" evacuations for Perry South and Monty campgrounds remain in place.
Webb tells KBND News, "Obviously, we pay a lot of attention to weather predictions; we’re constantly evaluating fuel moisture levels. So, we knew that we were expecting to get lightning, we knew that fuels were dry, so resources were definitely prepared." Webb adds, "They’re responding as needed. It’s very fluid. Whenever we have lightning busts like this, where we have a number of incidents, our resources are very flexible and they are responding to multiple fires throughout the day, throughout the night, as needed."
Now, they’re concerned about what might pop up later this week, "Holdovers that we haven’t found yet, and then also how these predicted weather conditions are going to impact the active fires that we have, like the Fly Creek." Webb says now that fire season is in full swing, firefighters’ hands are full. She urges everyone to take precautions to prevent human-caused fires.
The Tolo Mountain Fire, which started last week in the Crescent Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest, is now 75% contained and remains at 41 acres.
You'll find details on several smaller incidents in Central Oregon HERE.
Elsewhere in Oregon, the Big Rattlesnake Fire was reported late Sunday, "It’s 11 miles southwest of Medical Springs, Oregon, which is down in that kind of southeast part of the state," says NWCC's Carol Connolly. It burned 425 acres of grass and brush, 12 miles north of Baker City and is now considered 100% contained.