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Lines holding on Pole Creek Fire SW of Sisters

By Mackenzie Wilson
John Hendricks
Published On: Sep 11 2012 08:24:25 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 12 2012 07:38:29 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on the progress of the Pole Creek Fire burning near Sisters

SISTERS, Ore. -

Working tirelessly from above and on the ground, fire crews are battling a blaze started in the Three Sisters Wilderness, near the Pole Creek Trailhead on Sunday.

But the early lines held Tuesday and kept fire growth to a minimum, estimated Wednesday morning at 4,336 acres and 5 percent contained. Two spot fires had crews put on them, officials said.

What caused the flames that transformed the popular hiking area into a deserted area of scorched timber is still under investigation, as the number of firefighters grew to 500 on Tuesday.

Slowing down the blaze is a chess game for fire crews who are constantly moving heavy machinery to where it can make the biggest impact.

"That's the No. 1 priority -- keeping it out of Sisters, private property and affecting people's livelihood, then we will concentrate on the wilderness area," said Mike Stearly, the Pole Creek Fire public information officer.

In the coming week, warmer temperatures are in the forecast. So right now fire crews are are trying to get as much of a hold on the fire, while they can.

And as is the case on most big wildfires, a tent city has sprung at fire camp, located on the Sisters Rodeo grounds.

"With squirrelly winds, and winds changing direction and high winds, you don't know what's going to happen with the fire." said Kristen Bowles a Forest Service spokeswoman.

But six miles to the east, in Sisters, things at eye-level look almost normal ,with tourists snapping pictures downtown.

Early Tuesday morning ,air quality levels worsened as an inversion layer sent smoke into Sisters. In a release, the Department of Environmental quality said between 3 and 9 a.m., air quality levels were considered unhealthy.

"Depending on the wind direction and speed, it will drift in and out of the area, so folks can expect smoke," said Stearly.

So if the fire didn't grow much Tuesday, where did all that smoke in the skies come from? Officials said the smoke visible late Tuesday after the inversion lifted resulted from from the blaze continuing to back into unburned fuels within the fire perimeter.

The smoke that drifted in and around Sisters cleared fairly early Tuesday morning. Health officials say if you have respiratory problems to stay indoors if the smoke settles back in to your neighborhood.

The fire has an InciWeb page for the latest information.

The pre-evacuation notice is still in place, though no structures are under immediate threat of evacuation. For more information on the status of evacuations, call 541-550-4886 for the most up to date information.

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