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.