Lightning ignites multiple weekend fires

Crooked Fire contained; power is returned to area

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 04. 2007 5:00AM PST

As thundershowers moved through the region this weekend, about 30 small wildfires sprang up Saturday and Sunday, most of them caused by lightning strikes, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

At the same time, officials reported that the fire at Crooked River Ranch, which led to home evacuations last week, was fully contained at 6 p.m. Sunday.

“They’ve done a really nice job mopping that up, and we were able to get power back into the neighborhood so folks were able to go back in,” said Lisa Clark, fire information officer with COID.

Clark said that 19 of the 20 small fires that started Saturday were believed to have been caused by lightning, with one that was human-caused. They were all about one-tenth of an acre in size and had been contained as of Sunday afternoon.

One of Saturday’s fires was a 1 1/2-acre blaze on the west side of Shevlin Park, according to a news release from COID. On Sunday, a five-person hand crew and several engines were working on it and had put a containment line around the fire.

Sunday saw the start of another 11 small blazes, which were all thought to be related to lightning, Clark said. The largest on Sunday was about 2 acres in size and was located on private land in northwest Crook County, she added. Most of the fires on Sunday were also in the Deschutes National Forest.

Crews responded to all of the fires Sunday and hoped to have them all contained by that evening, Clark said.

“Depending on how much wind and weather comes up with the storm that’s moving across right now, that could provide some additional challenges, but at this time so far everything’s remaining small,” she said. “And then as this new storm moves across and puts down lighting, we’ll also be watching for any additional starts.”

A large fire started Saturday near Kimberly, about two hours northeast of Prineville, according to a news release from COID. That fire, called the Longview Fire, was about 1,700 acres in size as of Sunday evening, but was not threatening any structures, the release said.

On Sunday, the Central Oregon Fire Management Service began assisting the John Day Oregon Department of Forestry to contain the fire, the release said. As of Sunday afternoon, one helicopter, three hand crews, two water tenders and 11 engines were working on the fire, Clark said.

A second fire near Kimberly, the Big Bend Fire, had grown to about 100 acres by Sunday night, according to the release. One fire engine was working the fire, but a lack of resources and poor access to the area were hindering firefighting efforts. Officials had ordered a helicopter, eight hand crews and four more engines to battle the fire, the release said.

“So it’s been kind of a busy day here,” Clark said. “It’s a good indicator that fire season’s here, and people need to be extra careful out there.”

Clark added that a few small fires are burning in the Badlands Wilderness Study Area, which officials may just monitor if they stay on the interior of the area. On Saturday, she said, there was a problem with cars stopping on U.S. Highway 20 to look at the fires and causing traffic delays.

“Regardless of why they pull off, they need to pull completely off,” she said. “Just use caution if you’re pulling off to report a fire to make sure you’re completely off (the road).”

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