Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Desolation Fire near Prineville Grows and Prompts Evacuation Warnings

Strong wind gusts out of the northwest fanned the Desolation fire late yesterday afternoon, pushing the fire south out of the wilderness toward private structures along Highway 26 and prompting Level 2 evacuation notices for around 27 residences in the Marks Creek area along Hwy 26 between mileposts 45-50 late yesterday evening. The Level 2 evacuation notice (Get Set) remains in effect, urging residents to stay alert and be prepared to leave if the need arises.
The Desolation fire, a lightning start first reported Saturday in Mill Creek Wilderness on the Ochoco National Forest, is now estimated at about 2,000 acres.
A community information meeting will be held tomorrow, Thursday, September 14, at 5 pm in the Eastside Church in Prineville to share information about the fire.
Firefighters worked through the night putting in several miles of dozer line, and burning out along the line to remove fuel between the structures and Hwy 26 and the fire. Work continues today to strengthen and expand existing containment lines on the south, east and north sides of the wilderness. A Type 3 Central Oregon Incident Management Team will take command of the fire today, focusing on a confine and contain strategy for the fire and keeping the fire north of the highway.
Five airtankers are flying out of the Redmond Air Center, supporting ground resources by slowing the fire's progress and cooling actively burning flanks. Challenges today remain heavy fuel, warm temperatures and afternoon winds. A structure protection group will begin working to secure private residences in the area. Currently there are approximately 75 firefighters on scene, with six additional 20-person crews arriving today.
Smoky conditions are expected in the Ochoco Divide area today from both the wildfire and burnout operations. Travelers along Hwy 26 should use caution as smoke may drift onto the highway, and to expect heavy traffic from fire suppression resources. The highway is currently open, and ODOT workers will be on scene to help keep traffic moving safely through the area. For safety, drivers should slow down when encountering smoke, turn on headlights and proceed with caution. Please avoid pulling over to observe the fire or fire fighting operations.

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