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Warm Springs fire grows to over 1,600 acres

Published On: Sep 15 2012 06:05:08 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 17 2012 09:33:12 PM CDT
Warm Springs fire - Thomas Kutz

Thomas Kurtz

A fire ignited by lightning burned fiercely Friday night on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

BEND, Ore. -

A late fire season around the Northwest and Friday night thunderstorms have ignited new fires in Central Oregon, several on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation -- one that grew to over 1,600 acres -- and a small new one spotted Monday morning on the Deschutes National Forest.

Fire lookouts on Round Mountain and Odell Butte reported the new fire around 7:15 a.m., located about six miles northwest of Wickiup Reservoir, officials said.

Three engines, a water tender and two more staff responded to the fire on the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District. Initial-attack firefighters reported it was about a half-acre of timber. Later Monday, officials confirmed the fire was caught and contained at about that size.

The reservation, meanwhile, dealt over the weekend with several new lightning-sparked fires, some kept small and others needing more attention, one about two miles east of Kah-Nee-Ta Resort.

Fire officials said the Ka-Nee-Ta Fire, sparked by lightning Friday night, had burned 150 acres by Monday morning and was 20 percent contained. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was leading the effort to douse the fire, burning in heavy sage and bitterbrush in a remote roadless area.

Meanwhile, another lightning-caused fire, the Bear Slide Fire, grew to 1,670 acres, according to a GPS measurement, and was burning five miles north-northeast of Warm Springs.

A BIA fire spokesman in Warm Springs said no structures or roads were threatened by the fire the "sleeper" lightning-caused fire, though a subdivision lies about a half-mile to the west.

"It's not a threat unless there's shifting winds," another fire spokesman, William Wilson, said Sunday. "It's on top of a plateau, and the subdivision is below, so unless there's some very unusual behavior," it should not move in that direction, he said.

Another fire broke out over the weekend in the middle of the Sunnyside subdivision and burned about five acres but had a strong attack to corral it, and as of Sunday afternoon it was in patrol status, Wilson said.

Two other lightning-sparked fires in the Seekseequa area of the reservation were caught early and burned about an acre each, Wilson said.

The reservation had the largest wildfire in the region this year, the roughly 13,000-are Waterfalls 2 Fire that burned for weeks in the forest west of Warm Springs -- until the Pole Creek Fire southwest of Sisters exploded in size in recent days to about 16,000 acres.

The staff at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville said over the weekend they "remain vigilant for any new fire starts."

On Saturday, a reconnaissance plane flew the area north of Redmond, including the Crooked River National Grassland, and did not detect any new starts from the active lightning storm that passed over the Central Oregon area Friday night, officials said.

Fire lookouts also remain posted in Central Oregon throughout the day and into the evening.

The thunderstorm produced 186 lightning strikes between 8 p.m. Friday and 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Initially the lightning strikes were dry, and the dispatch office received several “smoke” reports. Three fires were detected and extinguished.

There remains a possibility that additional fires may show themselves as conditions dry out. These are are referred to as “sleeper fires.”

Warm and very dry conditions are expected through the coming week.


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