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Warm Springs wildfire grows to nearly 62,000 acres


Some firefighters were released Monday from the nearly 62,000-acre County Line 2 Fire as Kah-Nee-Ta Resort reopened and the threat eased to populated areas of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The containment estimate grew to 31 percent, with much more firefighting work left to do.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Doug Epperson, public information officer with the Oregon Incident Management Team, said Monday. On Tuesday morning, the fire was sized at 61,735 acres, with 581 personnel on the lines and in support.

Crews have secured a strong line around the east side of the fire, keeping it from spreading to the residential neighborhoods and Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, which estimated it lost $100,000 in revenue from the closure.

While crews have made good progress on that side, the majority of the fire is still raging in the Shitike Creek area.

“That’s kind of the key left to this whole operation here,” Epperson said. “Everything is going really well, like I said, on the grass side, the structure side, but we have to get that area tied off.”

The area is steep and hard to get to, which is why it is taking air support to help put out the flames.

Two structure-protection task forces were being released from the fire Monday.

“The wildland side of it, we’re still keeping the same amount of people,” Epperson said. “But the structure side of it, we’ll see decreasing at this point.”

Winds keep pushing the fire west and away from structures. However that means it’s pushing into heavy timber, and officials are working hard to keep that from happening.

Highway 26 reopened Saturday and tribal Highway 3 on Sunday morning as hundreds of residents were allowed to return home and cooler, less windy weather brought the first signs of progress in the blaze, which was at 59,900 acres as of late Monday — and so far has cost $2.2 million to fight.

After a weekend evacuation, Kah-Nee-Ta delayed reopening due to thick smoke in the area on Sunday, but reopened as of noon Monday.

Here’s the Tuesday AM update from fire managers:

Unified Command of this fire was established between Oregon State Fire Marshall Blue Team (Scott Magers, IC) and Oregon Incident Management Team #1 (Shawn Sheldon, IC) on August 13, 2015.

As of 8:00am today, the entire Warm Springs Reservation evacuations was reduced to Level 1 except for Tenino Road, which will be at Level 2 from Mile Post 1 through Mile Post 7. Road closed for local and fire fighter traffic only (signage in place).

Structure taskforces continue to patrol residential areas and support other crews. Crews continue to patrol and mop-up hot spots throughout the fire as well as scout, construct new line and improve existing line.

Because of progress made on the northeast and east sides of the fire, crews will begin to concentrate on the southwest around Shitike Canyon. This area still has heavy fuels, including timber. A new division was created to address the issues of constructing a containment line across the west edge of the Shitike Canyon.

A portable dip tank has been positioned in the Mill Creek area, this reduced helicopter turnaround time from 25 minutes to 7 minutes. This tank is called a ‘pumpkin’ because of its color and shape and holds 10,000 gallons of water.

Today’s weather is expected to be the same as yesterdays; humidity in mid teens with higher temperatures. We are looking at progressive lower humidities and higher temperatures throughout the week; with possible Red Flag Warning on Wednesday.

Please be cautious of the many fire vehicles on all roads. As dry forest and rangeland conditions continue, be careful of any actions that could cause fires.

Evacuation levels:


All areas of the Warm Springs Reservation with the exception of Tenino Road.


Tenino Road-Mile Post 1 through Mile Post 7

Road closed for local and fire fighter traffic only. (Signage in place)

For more information, including maps:

Earlier story:

For Tina Aguilar and her husband, the fire was right in their backyard.

“It was really scary — we started praying,” she said. “It’s just awful. This is the worst in all my life here that I’ve known, for this fire to be like this.”

Roads to the area were closed, so they had to watch and pray for their home from afar.

“We sat out there. We could see our home,” Aguilar said. “And all we wanted to do was come home. We sat out there six hours on that road.”

Warm Springs has seen its share of wildfires, but as one resident put it, “Not this close to the community.”

Aguilar said, “I’m thankful no lives were lost. We’re just grateful.”

“It’s really scary to see the aftermath of the fire, to see all the damage that it has done to our reservation,” she said, but added: “It’s times like this when the people come together.

Many families on the reservation continue to hope their homes will be spared from the flames.

“It hurts — you wouldn’t think it could hurt so much, but it does,” Sallie Polk-Adams said Saturday. She was evacuated with her grandparents on Thursday.

And the danger is far from over.

“There’s still some serious concerns,” said Chris Arnold with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office. “The fire is 3 percent contained at this time, which means we still have open lines.”

Crews on Saturday were focusing on protecting structures and keeping the fire from spreading any further. Several burnout operations were underway.

Air support finally arrived on Saturday, which could be a game-changer. Two helicopters were helping crews, dropping water on hot spots and getting an overview of the situation on the ground.

The weather conditions have improved as well, as winds have died down, but they are scheduled to pick back up on Monday.

“We hope we can get 48 hours of really good operation in there and get some headway,” Arnold said.

Nearly 1,000 people had been forced to flee, including 650 from Kah-Nee-Ta Resort.

Before Sunday’s lower evacuation levels, many families were staying at the Warm Springs emergency shelter after being evacuated Thursday.

“Within five minutes, the fire was in our backyard, and we barely got out of there,” Polk-Adams recalled.

The Red Cross shelter was moved to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras because of the Level 2 pre-evacuation alert for the West Hill subdivision, but the Warm Springs shelter remained open under different management. Thirty displaced families are grateful for it.

“What keeps us together is the laughter,” Polk-Adams said. “At some point, we’re all just going to break down pretty soon. And nobody really has gotten any rest (in) the community — we’ve just been on the go. “

Officials say the next few days are going to be very critical in the fight against the flames. They hope to have the fire fully contained by Aug. 26, but containment does not mean that the fire will be out by then — it simply means they hope to have a full perimeter line around the fire.

More information about the County Line 2 Fire can be found on InciWeb at

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