Friday, June 23, 2017

Rhoades Canyon Morning Fire Update

Firefighters have spent much of the past two days building containment line around the Rhoades Canyon Fire and burning out between the constructed line and the active fire. With the burnouts, the fire acreage has increased to 14,000 acres and containment has increased to 50%. The cause remains under investigation.

"Burning out" is a technique that allows firefighters to put containment lines in safer, more accessible areas such as roads, or along existing barriers like streams or rock slides. Firefighters then deliberately ignite a fire that burns between the line and the wildfire, which removes any pockets of unburned vegetation and prevents the main fire from spreading.

For the next day on the Rhoades Canyon Fire, firefighters will continue to construct fireline, as well as hold and improve existing containment lines. Concerns for the next burning period include increasing temperatures, low relative humidity, and afternoon winds that typically come through this area.

The Rhoades Canyon Fire is burning east of Clarno, Oregon, south of Hwy 218, and east of the John Day River. The river remains open and the Clarno boat launch is not affected; however, boaters should be aware that helicopters may be using the river to dip buckets. In addition, as needed, ODOT will provide a pilot car to bring people along Highway 218, with delays expected at less than 20 minutes.

As a reminder, conditions are getting hotter and drier in Central Oregon. Everyone recreating on public land should use caution and follow fire restrictions. Know before you go! Call ahead and find out what's allowed where you plan to recreate. In Central Oregon, fireworks and exploding targets like Tannerite are illegal on public lands and campfires and BBQs are prohibited along most BLM portions of the John Day, Lower Deschutes, Crooked and White Rivers.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rhoades Canyon Fire Update

Crews spent the night doing burnout operations to improve the containment line around the fire.  Firefighters will continue with burnout operations in the morning while temperatures remain cooler.  Firefighters will work to hold and improve containment lines. 

Helicopters and SEAT planes will continue to support suppression activities as needed.

The fire remains at 10,000 acres this morning and containment is at 30%. 

Concerns continue to be steep terrain, high temperatures, dry fuels, low relative humidity and afternoon winds. 

Highway 218 remains open, however, a pilot car is leading vehicles through the area, so expect delays.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rhoades Canyon Fire Update

Nearly 100 firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Wheeler County worked on the Rhoades Canyon Fire burning east of Clarno, Oregon and south of Highway 218 this afternoon. Steep slopes and afternoon winds caused the fire make short runs, increasing the size to 10,000 acres. Although the fire grew, crews have been successful in getting line around portions of the fire and containment has increased to 30 percent.

Wind, low relative humidity and dry fuels remain a concern for suppression efforts. Crews will work throughout the night to improve existing lines to create a solid anchor point, and will progressively build line along the flanks of the fire. Crews may also use small burnout operations to help contain the fire. Helicopters and SEAT planes will continue to use water and retardant to knock down the hottest parts of the fire and support ground firefighters during the day.

Highway 218 remains open. The fire has not reached the John Day River and the river remains open; however, boaters should be aware that helicopters may be dipping buckets in the river during daylight hours. When helicopters approach, boaters should hold up until the helicopter has moved away.

Firefighters Respond to New Wildfire near Clarno

Firefighters responded yesterday to a new wildfire near Clarno, Oregon. The fire was reported yesterday just before noon along Highway 218, one mile east of the John Day River.  Incident #301, called the Rhoades Canyon fire, grew quickly to the south due to light, dried-out grass, steep slopes and wind, and is currently estimated at 8,000 acres. The cause is under investigation. The fire is 10 percent contained at this time.

Increasing temperatures over the next several days and afternoon winds will continue to challenge firefighters. The fire is burning in a mix of land administered by the BLM including a portion of the Spring Basin Wilderness, private land, and fee title land managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs called the Pine Creek Conservation Area. Firefighters protected several historic structures during the initial response to the fire, and no additional structures are considered threatened at this time. The John Day River and Highway 218 remain open.

The fire is staffed today with several engines from the Prineville District Bureau of Land Management and Wheeler County Fire and Rescue. In addition, there is a Type 1 handcrew (Hotshot crew) and a Type 2 handcrew, each providing 20 firefighters. Due to the limited number of roads in this area, the crews are being supported by two single engine air tankers (SEATs) and two Type 2 helicopters, and one Type 1 helicopter.

The rapid growth on the fire is a sign that vegetation in Central Oregon is quickly drying out. Lower elevations along the river canyons that are typically hotter and dryer are quickly moving toward extreme. Fire restrictions are currently in place along portions of the John Day, Lower Deschutes, Crooked and White Rivers in Central Oregon, requiring visitors to use white gas and propane stoves only for heating and cooking. Fire officials would like to remind everyone to take care as they head out to recreate in Central Oregon – where campfires are allowed, make sure someone is always there to watch them and make sure they’re “dead out” when going to bed or leaving the campground. As we approach the 4th of July holiday, please remember that fireworks of any kind are illegal on public land.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Wildcat Fire Update, 6/16/2017

The Central Oregon Fire Management Service (COFMS) and the Ochoco National Forest, Lookout Mountain Ranger District, are managing the Wildcat fire located 1 mile west of Spears Meadows south of Forest Service Road 3350 and along Highway 26 at mile marker 42.  The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, however, there was lightning in the area over the past weekend. 
Given the time of year and favorable weather conditions, crews are using existing roads and natural barriers for containment opportunities and using drip torches and burn out operations to secure established containment lines.  The fire is burning within an old harvest treatment area and anticipated fire effects will be complementary to previous treatments.

This strategy will allow fire to play its natural ecological role on the landscape while minimizing firefighter risk, promoting vegetation health and vigor in the fire area and reducing hazardous fuels.  When completed early next week, the final perimeter is expected to be approximately 130 acres.   This approach is in line with the Ochoco National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.

“With the current weather conditions we are seeing right now and what we are anticipating in the near future, this is a good opportunity for us to begin reintroducing fire into our ecosystem,” says District Ranger, Slater Turner.

Smoke may be visible in the area and along Highway 26.  While no formal closure is in place, the public is encouraged to avoid the fire area. 

For media inquiries, contact Susan Garner at or (541) 416-6647

Friday, June 9, 2017

Annual Campfire Restrictions in Place on BLM Rivers in Central Oregon

Annual campfire restrictions went into effect June 1, on portions of the Deschutes, John Day and Crooked Rivers, as well as on BLM-administered lands along Lake Billy Chinook. The number one goal of the BLM is promoting safety, and the river canyons present a combination of limited access, grassy fuels that dry out quickly, and steep slopes that allow wildfires to spread rapidly.
The river fire closures prohibit building, igniting, maintaining, attending, using, tending, or being within 20 feet of a campfire, charcoal fire, or any other type of open flame. This closure bans the use of portable propane campfires and wood pellet burning devices. The closure also restricts areas where visitors can smoke to non-public buildings, closed vehicles, in boats on the water or while standing in the water.

  • The specific campfire closure locations apply to BLM-administered lands in the following areas:
  • Within ½ mile of the Crooked River’s edge from the Highway 97 bridge to Lake Billy Chinook;
  • Within ½ mile of the Deschutes River’s edge from the Highway 20 bridge to Lake Billy Chinook;
  • Within ½ mile of Lake Simtustus (located between Round Butte Dam and Pelton Dam);
  • Within the Lower Deschutes National Wild and Scenic River corridor, which extends from Pelton Dam to the Columbia River;
  • Within ½ mile of Lake Billy Chinook, including the BLM Beach dispersed recreation site located ½ mile east of the Three Rivers Recreation Area on the south shore of the Metolius Arm of the lake;
  • Within ½ mile of the White River’s edge from its confluence with the Deschutes River upstream to the eastern boundary of the Mt. Hood National Forest.
  • The Mainstem John Day River from Tumwater Falls (River Mile 10) upstream to Kimberly (RM 185);
  • The North Fork John Day River, from the confluence with the Mainstem at Kimberly  (RM 0) upstream to the Umatilla National Forest boundary (RM 62); and,
  • The South Fork John Day River from Smokey Creek (RM 6) upstream to the Malheur Forest (RM 47).
Except in emergency conditions or with permission by an agency authorized officer, there are no exceptions to this closure. A violation of this closure is punishable to by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than 12 months, or both.  In addition, igniting, possessing and/or using fireworks or target shooting with exploding targets is prohibited on BLM-administered lands in Oregon and Washington from May 19, 2017 through October 14, 2017.

New number for Central Oregon fire information

Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center (COIDC) has moved from Prineville, Oregon to Redmond, Oregon, requiring a change in the public and media contact phone numbers. The main number for general public, contractor or business inquiries will be (541) 316-7700 and the phone number for the public and media for wildfire information will now be (541) 316-7711. Fire Information Officers will staff the fire information line only during active Central Oregon wildfires.