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Akawana Fire 80 percent contained; crews begin to leave


Another major sign of progress in stopping the nearly 2,100-acre Akawana Fire burning southwest of Lake Billy Chinook came Sunday as authorities lifted all evacuation notices for nearby homes, as crews brought the fire to 80 percent containment.

But officials warned it’s still just the start of what promises to be a busy wildfire season.

All evacuation notices for the Akawana Fire were officially lifted at 10 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

Here’s the final update Monday morning from the current incident management team:

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Type 1 Incident Management Team, led by Incident Commander Link Smith, will hand the fire over to a smaller Type 3 organization Tuesday.

The Team would like to thank the Sisters, Three Rivers and Grandview communities for their kind hospitality and support during its stay.

The size of the fire remains 2,094 acres, and it is now 80 percent contained.

While fire crews have reached at least 300 feet into the fire from the perimeter with mop-up operations, residents may see smoke for several days from burning stumps and snags well within containment lines.

The Type 3 Team in place for the next few days is made up of about 140 firefighters and support staff. Equipment assigned to the fire with this team will include three fire engines, four water tenders, two bulldozers, three skidgines and one helicopter. The fire camp will be moved to ODF’s Sisters sub-unit office.

Now that the smoke has cleared over the Akawana Fire, residents should continue to treat fire season with respect. Everyone is encouraged to follow current fire season restrictions to prevent human-caused fires.

In addition, residents of the wildland-urban interface, where communities border forests and grazing lands, should always be prepared before fire threatens communities. Have a plan that includes making arrangements for persons with special needs, livestock and pets. Learn more about the Ready Set Go Program at

The incident management team would also like to recognize and thank all cooperating agencies that assisted us in the complete and coordinated fire protection system on this fire.

Agencies and partners included the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office and responding structural task forces from around the state, Lake Chinook Fire District, the Central Oregon Fire Management Service, Crooked River National Grasslands, PGE/Warms Springs Tribes Land Ownership, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Jefferson and Deschutes County Emergency Management.

On Sunday, officials said, “Residents not only affected by this fire, but throughout Oregon, are encouraged to treat fire season as if they are under a Level 1 evacuation notice by being ready and prepared in the event a fire impacts their community.”

“Residents can get ready by assembling emergency supplies and belongings in a safe place, planning escape routes and ensuring all those residing within the home know the plan of action.”

In their Sunday evening update, officials said, “It was another great day on the fire line. Firefighters continued aggressive mop-up, making sure that this fire will not reignite and flare up later this summer.”

Total firefighting costs at this point are about $2.3 million.

Full containment is expected Tuesday by a crew that totaled nearly 600 firefighters at its peak.

Crews working on this fire are also available to help local resources, should any new fires occur within the area.

Reported last Tuesday, the lightning-caused fire is burning 13 miles north of Sisters in the Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s Central Oregon District.

Fire crews were very successful Friday and Saturday, thanks to hard work, cool temperatures and higher humidity, the update said.

Gusty Friday afternoon winds sent one spot fire across containment lines in the southeast corner of the fire that crews, equipment and helicopters quickly attacked and extinguished. Infrared imaging taken overnight showed a solid drop in heat near the fire’s perimeter.

While some heavy equipment and air resources are being released, additional crews are being brought in to do the more labor-intensive dirty work of digging out hot spots from beneath stumps and soaking larger fuels on the ground.

To date, just one minor hand injury has occurred.

Jefferson County sheriff’s Capt. Marc Heckathorn said late Friday afternoon that Forest Road 64 had reopened westbound from the Three Rivers gate, and both the Perry South and Monte campgrounds were open again, having been evacuated Wednesday afternoon. Forest roads 63 and 1170 were among major roads in the area that remained closed., he said.

“Despite increased wind activity today, firefighters continue to have success corralling the Akawana Fire,” Heckathorn wrote.

“Local residents may see an increase in smoke in the air as crews conduct low intensity burn-out operations of fuels along containment lines to prevent future issues,” the captain added.

For the latest updates on the fire, log on to

Residents in the area like Bill Randolph are used to having wildfires in their backyard.

“Doesn’t bother me,” Randolph said Thursday. “We’re packed and ready to go.”

Over the years, residents in this area have seen their fair share of fires creeping closer to their homes, many used as vacation homes.

“It doesn’t take us long to get packed up, because we’ve done it before,” Randolph said.

He said he knows exactly what he wants to take with him.

“Memory things like pictures of the kids and grandkids,” Randolph said.

His neighbor, George Sanborn, built a 35-foot tower five years ago, allowing him to keep an eye on the fires.

“There’s quite a few of them that we’ve seen from up here,” Sanborn said.

On Thursday, Sanborn looked from his tower at big smoke plumes from the Akawana Fire.

About 400 firefighters were battling the blaze Thursday, and lighter winds, pushing away from homes, helped their efforts.

“Wind has died down drastically today,” said Gert Zoutendijk, public information officer with the Office of the state fire marshal.

Zoutendijk said though firefighters have made progress, they’re not out of the woods just yet, as fire behavior remains erratic.

“They were very surprised to see the wind kick up like that yesterday and go in different directions than it normally goes,” Zoutendijk said. “And right around 3 p.m., it was like someone switched on the light switch.”

Despite the fire danger in the area, Randolph and other residents in the area love to call it their home.

“It’s just real nice here,” Randolph said. “It’s quiet.”

The Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and on Thursday issued a temporary area closure on federal lands surrounding the Akawana Fire.

The approximately 50 acre closure of Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands, Crooked River National Grassland and National Forest lands on the Sisters Ranger District was put in place for the safety of the public and firefighters working in the area.

While the fire is currently burning on ODF protected lands, Forest and Grassland officials, as well as ODF personnel and fire managers recognize both the potential for spread as well as the necessity of ensuring the safety of the public in and around these areas.

The initial closure included federal lands within the following borders:
All land east of Forest Road (FR) 11 at the junction of FR 1129 to the junction of FR 1170;
South of County Road 64 to the junction of County Road 63;
West of CR 63 to Montgomery Road and along the southern border of sections 11, 10, 9, 8 and 7 where it intersects with Forest Road 2055

The closure also included the following roads:
Forest Roads 11, 1170, 1126 and 2055
Private Road 1129 and;
County Roads 64 (Montgomery Road) and 63 (Flat Road)

Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Akawana Fire burning in Jefferson County.

FEMA Region X Deputy Regional Administrator Sharon Loper determined that the fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. Loper approved the state of Oregon’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant Wednesday night.

At the time of the request, the fire was threatening 1,000 homes in and around the Grandview, Forest Park, and Three Rivers communities, total estimated population 3,000. Approximately 250 of the threatened homes are primary residences and 750 are secondary homes.

The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state of Oregon’s eligible firefighting costs for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. These grants provide reimbursement for firefighting and life-saving efforts. They do not provide assistance to individuals, homeowners or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.

FMAGs are provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. Eligible items can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.

In Eastern Oregon, the Owyhee Canyon Fire was declared fully contained Thursday after burning 21,776 acres, burning to within a mile and a half of Rome.

And in south-central Oregon, the Draw Fire, 20 miles northeast of Chiloquin, was held at just under 500 ares and moved to 95 percent containment Friday by the 151 personnel staffing it.

Also, in north-Central Oregon, the Currie Canyon Fire has burned 5,800 acres 10 miles east of Grass Valley, in brush and tall grass. It was 30 percent contained by late Thursday.

For the latest info on several Oregon wildfires, visit:

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