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Central Oregon prepares for new wildfire threat

By John Hendricks
Published On: Sep 21 2012 07:43:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 22 2012 01:28:06 AM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on how fire officials are preparing ahead of weekend thunderstorms.

BEND, Ore. -

With hot and dry conditions and now the threat of lightning, fire officials spent Friday preparing for any new fire starts. Firefighting resources across the West have been stretched thin for weeks. With fewer resources, crews on the Pole Creek fire are now spreading out across the region.

"The Deschutes National Forest has a considerable initial attack capability anyway," said Nick Lunde, a fire information officer for the Pole Creek fire. "So what we are doing here is helping bolster that for them and beef it up a little bit."

Two crews and several helicopters were moved early Friday morning. One will be stationed in Bend, the other in Prineville, which will have a helicopter that can help not only by air but on the ground.

"It's rappel-capable for initial attack, the rappellers can get there and slide down a rope and be on the fire with even having to land the helicopter," Lunde said.

In Sisters, people living there have been dealing with smoke for the last two weeks. At the Ski Inn along Highway 20, the Pole Creek Fire has been the talk of town.

"Today (Friday) wasn't as bad as it was yesterday, but I mean it's been bad," said Carrie McGonagle, the restaurant manager.

McGonagle says the threat of new fires is very nerve wracking.

"It's dry out there -- it's dry everywhere, and the wind could change at any time," said McGonagle. "So yeah, it makes me nervous."

With containment lines along the pole creek fire holding for now, firefighters are confident they will survive the latest curve ball Mother Nature is about to throw their way.

"This will be a good test," said Lunde. "If we get through this, at least, we will be extremely confident."

Firefighters are only allowed to be on a wildfire for 14 days, though fire bosses say they can apply for a seven-day extension if needed. Officials with the Pole Creek Fire applied for the extension which has been granted.

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