Downed power lines sparked 13 Oregon fires

A fire incident report says downed power lines sparked at least 13 fires during a period of high winds last week between two Oregon communities that were devastated by flames.

The report from the Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center that was written last Thursday says the fires ignited between Mehama and Detroit east of the capital of Salem during peak winds on Sept. 7.

The report doesn’t say to what extent those fire starts affected a larger, separate blaze that started Aug. 16.

That wind-driven fire, called the Beachie Creek Fire, swept through a canyon on Sept. 8 and wiped out the towns of Detroit, Gates, Mill City and Idanha. Its cause is still under investigation.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission told local media Tuesday that it had no information that attributed a “specific wildfire to any specific Oregon utility.”

The Oregon Department of Forestry is closely monitoring 12 major fires in Oregon, (see table below for details).

Fires are removed from the list when they are 100% lined and fire managers are confident in their progress toward containment.

There are about 6,500 personnel assigned to these fires from across the nation and Canada. This doesn’t include the many government emergency response employees, landowners, forestland operators, and members of the community who are contributing to the fight in whatever way they can. About 1 million acres have burned in Oregon since the start of this year, which is nearly double the 10-year average of approximately 557,811.

Fire name Acres burned (est.) Containment Location
Beachie Creek 191,138 20% 15 miles N of Detroit
Lionshead 189,316 10% 20 miles W of Warm Springs
Holiday Farm 170,637 8% 3 miles W of McKenzie Bridge
Riverside 135,956 3% 2 miles SE of Estacada
Archie Creek 128,020 20% 20 miles E of Glide
Brattain 44,800 20% 8 miles S of Paisley
Slater 38,721 in Oregon 10% SE of Cave Junction (also in No. California)
S. Obenchain 32,814 25% 5 miles E of Eagle Point
Two Four Two 14,473 29% W/NW of Chiloquin
Thielsen 8,645 1% E of Diamond Lake
Echo Mtn. Complex 2,552 45% 4 miles NE of Lincoln City
North Cascade Complex 2,315
Multiple locations in ODF’s North Cascade District

Please note: The acres burned estimates above are based very limited information available. These numbers will change over the next several days, in some cases significantly. We will be taking every opportunity to map these fires. Fire maps are an important tool for both ongoing response operations and keeping people informed.

Lessons Learned

With conditions being almost perfect for a wildfire to start, we’re reminded of fires like the one that swept through Northern California and devastated the town of Paradise. Several local agencies spoke with county commissioners this afternoon about how to help prevent what happened in Paradise from affecting Central Oregon. Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan was at the meeting and tells us what lessons were discussed.

Impact of California’s Camp Fire

The Camp Fire in northern California has become the deadliest in the state’s history, but it can be hard to wrap your head around the number of homes lost and the destruction left behind. That’s not a problem for one local family, who has seen the destruction impact their own relatives. Central Oregon Daily’d Allison Roecker spoke with a Bend family whose relatives’ home disappeared as the fire ripped through the town of Paradise.

11-Acre Blaze Shuts Down Highway 126

Several fire crews with support from helicopters and air tankers were on the scene of multiple brush fires west of Redmond Friday afternoon.

The fires broke out within about a mile of each other along State Highway 126, prompting the closure of a six-mile stretch of the highway, as crews tackled them on the ground and by air.

The fires were reported around 1:30 today in the area of milepost 101 to 103. However, the quick response from multiple agencies allowed crews to contain the fires to only 11 acres. No structures were threatened and no evacuations were ordered.

Sheriff Shane Nelson told Central Oregon Daily that a malfunctioning vehicle could have sparked the fires accidentally, but the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

ODOT said highway 126 was closed between milepost 98 and 104 and urged motorists to avoid the area. One lane of the highway was opened just after 6 pm but it will likely remain partially closed until 9 pm tonight as crews work to mop-up hot spots along the highway.

Substation Fire Update

Governor Kate Brown has declared a statewide fire emergency as a deadly wildfire continues to move across 80 miles of the Columbia River Gorge and beyond. As of Thursday night the Substation fire near the Dalles has been declared the number one in the U.S. with over 50,000 acres burned and sustained winds making the blaze difficult to control. The Oregon National Guard has ben activated to assist in the ongoing firefighting efforts.

Homes in the area have been evacuated and authorities said the fire has claimed one man, a tractor operator who was trying to create a fire break to hold back the flames of a neighbor’s property in Wasco County.

The fire started at an electrical converter station near the Dalles and, while officials have not confirmed the cause of the fire, arson is being looked at as a possibility.


Arrests Made in Pilot Butte Fire

Fourth of July festivities were put on hold late Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out on the base of Pilot Butte in Bend. On Thursday Bend Police arrested two men accused of the starting the fire that burned ten acres and threatened nearby homes.

The two suspects are currently facing charges of criminal mischief in the first degree, reckless burning and possible arson charges related to the blaze.

Around 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday a small fire, allegedly sparked by fire works, quickly escalated into a full on inferno and fire crews were quickly called in to handle the blaze that was propelled through the grass by strong winds.

The fire prompted evacuations of two nearby apartment complexes and shut down Highway 20 in both directions. The fire also lead to a power outage that left roughly 27,000 Bend residents without power for hours.

On Wednesday night Highway 20 was reopened, power was back on and Bend’s fireworks show went on as planned. However, the Pilot Butte park access road and trail head will be closed for two days and firefighter continue to put out hot spots in order to avoid another fire from flaring up.

Fires Blaze in Central Oregon

A fire near Culver was threatening homes on Friday, and Central Oregon Daily’s Lisa Carton spent the day with the firefighters at the Graham Fire, south of the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook. The fire ignited Thursday and has since burned roughly 2,000 acres. After evacuations were ordered state resources were called in to help battle the blaze after Governor Kate Brown declared the fire a conflagration. 

Residents near Maupin have also been told to prepare for a possible evacuation as the Box Car Fire grew to 18,000 acres – making it the largest of the young fire season so far. Campers have been warned to stay out of the area and Highway 197 has been closed due to smoke.

Prescribed Burns Scheduled for Central Oregon

A prescribed burn was ignited by the U.S. Forest Service Sunday near Rimrock Trail Head, leaving a thick soup of smoke over Bend on Monday morning.
Central Oregon Daily’s Allison Roecker spoke to residents and a Forest Service official on the timing of the burn, and what to expect for the rest of the week.

If the weather permits, the Deschutes National Forest Service plans to ignite two more burns this week, one just across the highway from the Rimrock Trailhead that’s burning right now and the next one will be along the north side of Skyliners Road.