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New wildfire at Pine Mountain tops 250 acres


A fire spotted Friday night on the southaeast flank of Pine Mountain grew to more than 250 acres overnight, despite cooler temperatures and firefighting efforts. It already prompted evacuation of an observatory and campground on the peak, about 30 miles southeast of Bend.

The East Butte Lookout spotted the Pine Mountain Fire around 8:30 p.m. at about an acre, according to the Central Oregon Fire Management Service.

The fire, mapped Saturday morning at 252 acres, was burning in a mix of Forest Service and BLM land, mostly in sagebrush and grass but near some scattered pine and juniper trees, according to Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

Crews used a bulldozer overnight to get a line around 80 percent of the fire. Helicopters and Single-Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) were joining the fight Saturday morning as crews work to hold and improve on the lines, challenged by more August hot temperatures and dry fuels.

An unknown number of people were evacuated Friday night from the Pine Mountain Observatory and nearby campground. Clark said the fire began just over two miles from the observatory and grow somewhat on all sides, but had slowed Saturday morning.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies reportedly evacuated the Pine Mountain Observatory, operated by the University of Oregon Physics Department, and a nearby campground. The observatory, at 6,500 feet elevation, features 15-, 24- and 32-inch telescopes.

The observatory was closed Saturday due to the firefighting efforts nearby, an announcement on the website stated.

A fire locator map (PDF) can be downloaded at

It was the second wildfire reported on a Deschutes County peak in about six hours.

The earlier one broke out Friday afternoon on the thickly forested slopes of Tumalo Mountain, west of Bend and across the Cascade Lakes Highway from the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, officials said.

Incident No. 516 was reported around 2 p.m. and more than an hour later was estimated at five to six acres. In the evening, officials said it actually burned only about an acre, with numerous spot fires spread out over a six-acre area.

Crews and helicopters on the Sheridan Fire west of Sunriver were shifted to help with the new blaze, along with an air tanker out of Redmond, as it had the potential to grow rapidly, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

Two helicopters were dipping their buckets into nearby Todd Lake, supporting crews on the ground, and the Mt. Bachelor parking lot was prepared as a potential landing zone.

The highway remained open, said fire information officer Lisa Clark at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.

The total acreage included some spot fires on the 7,779-foot peak, burning in some heavy spruce and highly flammable material known as “old man’s beard” that hangs like moss off the branches, Clark said.

Fire crews will continue working to build line overnight and mop up any hot spots. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Keep up to date on these and other local fires at


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