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Browns Creek Fire 90 pct. contained; last areas to reopen

By Barney Lerten
John Hendricks
Brittany Weiner
Published On: Jul 28 2013 02:59:59 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 30 2013 05:41:37 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Brittany Weiner shows how nature is playing a huge role in the Browns Creek Fire containment.

REDMOND, Ore. -

The 108-acre Browns Creek Fire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of campers near Wickiup Reservoir Sunday afternoon is now 90 percent contained, and all but one campground has reopened, authorities said Tuesday as evacuated campers were allowed in to retrieve their belongings.

Mop-up work is underway on the blaze, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.

The last closures, of Forest Road 42 and Sheep Bridge Campground, will reopen at 9 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

Forest Road 42 had remained closed into the area, though the Sunday campsite evacuees were escorted in Tuesday morning to get the belongings they left behind.

Meanwhile, COIDC officials said 10 smokejumpers, two rapellers and a 20-person hand crew were sent to battle four new fires that broke out at the crest of the Cascades close to Windigo Butte, on the Deschutes National Forest south of Crescent Lake, near the boundary with the Umpqua Natonal Forest.

The hand crew was hiking into the rugged, remote area, said fire information spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean.

Earlier story:

At midday Monday, officials said the Browns Creek Fire's size was holding at the 108-acre figure announced earlier in the day, but it was keeping crews busy.

"While the winds are calm and the temperatures are cooler, we'll be focusing on putting water on the fire as much as we can," Sommer Moore, fire information officer, said Monday.

"We've ordered up a bunch of water pumps, and we're putting in hose lay around the whole fire. So just cooling off those hot spots so it doesn't pick back up again."

The nearby Wickiup Reservoir and Browns Creek are helping to contain the fire, as they act as natural barriers.

"Having the water here definitely helped, because the fire came straight towards it," Moore said.

There was concern Sunday that fire could jump the reservoir by way of embers.

"As the fire was progressing this way. It was pretty high intensity," said Moore. "So there's always a chance that embers could come over this water body and land on the other side here and start what we call spot fires on this side."

So far,  no spot fires have been reported, but firefighters continue to patrol the opposite shore for signs of smoke.

Forest Road 4280 remained closed, but Road 4260 had reopened, they said, adding that the South Twin camping area reopened at 1 p.m.

A portion of Road 42 also reopened at midday Monday, from Highway 97 to Forest Road 4262, which is now opened to the Twin Lakes area. But dispersed campsites were still closed.

Gull Point Campground and all areas east of Forest Road 4260 opened by 2 p.m., Monday, officials said.

The cause of the fire, which was fully surrounded by fire lines by nightfall Sunday, remains under investigation, they said.

The wind-fanned fire stayed very active late Sunday afternoon, surging toward the east and threatening the popular North and South Twin Lake areas -- but then, to the surprise and relief of many, it quieted down, allowing fire crews to gain the upper hand.

By Sunday evening, bulldozers had carved a line around 90 percent of the fire and hand lines were being built around the other 10 percent, said fire information officer Jean Nelson-Dean at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.

The fire's size was figured Monday morning at 108 acres. Nelson-Dean said campground evacuations remained in place, for the time being, and Forest Road 42 was closed Sunday for helicopters to safely pull and drop buckets of water on the fire area.

A local Type 3 management team took command of the fire operation Monday as federal, state and contract crews worked to keep it in check and within the lines.

Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies evacuated several campgrounds after the fire broke out around 1 p.m. at the north end of Wickiup Reservoir, near Forest Road 4280, about 12 miles west of La Pine.

Campers at Sheep Bridge campground, areas adjacent to Forest Road 4280 (Forest spur roads 100 and 700), Gull Point Campground and South Twin Lakes were evacuated by late afternoon, with the North Twin Lake area being put on notice for evacuation if the fire moved closer. 

Evacuees told all-too-familiar tales of a rushed departure and some frantic times.

"Yeah, they were yelling, 'Evacuate! Evacuate! We need you out of here!'" Joan Marston recalled. "But by the time we were evacuated, you had flames, you could see all the trees -- I have massive pictures, where -- I mean, it's gone"

"My parents, my brothers and my son-in-law are all still down there -- right beside the fire," said Debbie Cleavenger.

The evacuations will stay in place overnight, for safety reasons, or until the sheriff's office deems it safe to return, Nelson-Dean said.

Forest Road 42, off of the Cascade Lakes Highway, was closed for fire traffic and safety concerns.

Nelson-Dean NewsChannel 21 earlier Sunday afternoon the fire was 30 to 40 acres in size, and deputies said it was growing fast. No new size estimate was available yet Sunday evening.

By 5 p.m., the Redmond Hotshots had joined nine fire engines, three bulldozers, three water-dropping helicopters, two water tenders and a 20-person hand crew battling the blaze. assisted in camper evacuations and forest road closures by sheriff's deputies and Forest Service law enforcement.

Meanwhile, marine deputies were working the shoreline of Wickiup  to evacuate and tell people about the fire.

A Type 3 management crew was called in to take over the fire early Monday morning.

Deschutes County Sheriff's Office evacuation update - Monday afternoon:

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to work closely with the Wickiup Fire Management Team on the progress of the fire and evacuations.

 The evacuation order for North Twin Lake Campground and South Twin Lake Campground will no longer be in effect as of 1:00 pm 7-29-13.

  The following areas are still under an evacuation order until further notice:

  • Forest Service Road # 42 from 4270 (Crane Prairie Access) to Cascades Lake Hwy, this includes all areas south of the 42 road from the 4260 road to the Cascade Lakes Hwy.  Auto traffic will be allowed west bound on the 42 road to the intersection of the 4270 road but no further.
  • All camping (Dispersed as well as campgrounds) on the West side of the 4260 Road to Wickiup Reservoir. This includes the Ship Bridge campground to the Gull Point Campground. (Gull Point campground is open)
  • All Camping from the west shore of the Deschutes Arm of Wickipup Reservoir, south to the Davis Arm of the Wickiup Reservoir. To the East side of Cascade lakes Hwy.
  • This area includes the following Forest Service Roads: 4280, 700,730,760,700 and the 100 spur off of the 4280 road.

These areas will have Forest Service Personnel stationed at road closures.  The areas will be patrolled by Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and US Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers.

 

  • Campers who were required to leave during the initial evacuation will be allowed back into the area to retrieve equipment with a Forest Service Escort only.  This process will begin as follows:
    • Starting at 10:00 am July 30, 2013
    • Travel the Cascade Lakes Hwy to the intersection of Forest Service Road 42.       ( Do not travel Forest 42 as it will be blocked at the Crane Prairie Junction) Forest Service personnel will escort individuals into and out of the area to retrieve property and items that were left behind.
    • This process will continue until the area is re-opened and or all property has been removed.

Fire Managers have indicated that firefighters are having good success lining the fire and continue to be aware of and identifying and controlling any spot fires using crews, engines, dozers and aviation resources.

The above listed areas will need to remain closed to insure the safety of community members and the firefighters that are actively working to control this wildfire.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office will provide information to local and regional media sources as soon as any changes have been made to the warnings.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would like to take this opportunity to remind our communities to be mindful of changing conditions and to not become complacent.  Fire conditions can and do change rapidly and citizens should continue to monitor information sources.

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