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Jennie’s Peak Fire north of Mitchell grows to 36,000 acres


(Update: Jennie’s Peak Fire now at 36,000 acres)

The Jennie’s Peak Fire along the John Day River north of Mitchell grew dramatically Monday to about 36,000 acres, moving primarily to the west, officials said.

“Winds are starting to pick up from the northeast, making it more challenging this evening,” the evening update stated.

On Monday, firefighters continued with indirect tactics to create over nine miles of line along the south and southwest side of the fire on the John Day River from Twickenham Bridge to Juniper Canyon. As weather conditions allow, this work will continue on the John Day River from Juniper Canyon to Rhodes Canyon Monday night. The east side of the fire is also active but the fire line is holding, officials said.

Firefighters are also working in coordination with Oregon Department of Forestry and landowners on the northeast section of the fire to protect private range and timberlands. Crews are continuing active protection for private homes and ranches near the fire.

The Priest Hole Campground continues to be closed at a Level 3 evacuation and homes along the Burnt Ranch Road are under a Level 2 (Get Set) notice. The Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office has also closed Pine Creek Lane and Bridge Creek Road to the general public. The public is asked to avoid these areas as fire personnel and equipment will be using them for fire suppression.

Northwest Interagency Team #7, a Type 2 Incident Management team, will be working in Unified Command with Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Blue Team starting Tuesday morning. They will be managing the Jennie’s Peak, Stubblefield, Seale, Lonerock and Buckhorn fires that are burning in Gilliam and Wheeler counties.

Four large fires that broke out over the weekend in Gilliam and Wheeler counties, forcing evacuations and threatening several structures, have burned a total of nearly 49,000 acres so far, while a Lake County fire that also has led to evacuations has burned nearly 26,000 acres, authorities said Monday.

As of Monday, the Seale, Stubblefield and Lonerock fires had burned a total of 30,500 acres combined and were at 20 percent containment, officials said.

Early Monday afternoon, the Gilliam County Sheriff’s Office announced on Facebook a Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation notice for areas two miles west of the Airbase on Richmond Road, as well as all of Richmond and Pattee roads.It doesn’t include the Airbase houses and homes to the east at this time. The Red Cross was setting up an information center at Condon High School for potential evacuees.

Meanwhile, the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office said Monday it has closed Pine Creek Lane and Bridge Creek Road to the general public. “Please avoid these areas as fire personnel and equipment will be using them for fire suppression,” the agency said.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team was set to arrive Monday night and will assume command of the several fires burning on the east side of the Central Oregon Fire Management Service area Tuesday morning.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office said in Monday morning’s update that good progress was made Sunday night on the fires in south Gilliam County, as the weather was cool, with some associated precipitation, allowing the firefighters to get ahead of the fires in many areas.

At Sunday night’s community meeting in Condon, Emergency Manager Chris Fitzsimmons said, “This is the first time the State Fire Marshal’s Office has been in our community under a Conflagration (Act declaration by the governor), and we are very thankful for all the great work that has been accomplished in the past two days.”

Firefighters worked to hold and improve existing containment lines on the fires Monday and to stop the forward progress of the fire on the active sides. Air support continues to be available to maximize efforts of crews on the ground. Firefighters will continue to be challenged by light flashy fuels, steep slopes along the John Day River Canyon and afternoon winds.

With a combination of smoke from Washington and Canadian wildfires, as well as fires burning in Oregon, air quality indices are showing areas of unhealthy to hazardous air across the eastern part of the state.

Many factors influence a person’s sensitivity to smoke, including severity and duration of smoke exposure and a person’s health. Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing health conditions and those who are particularly sensitive to air pollution. You can find a link to the DEQ Air Quality Index on as well as tips about dealing with smoke.

There is a Red Flag warning for fire weather from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.for critical winds and low humidity. All tactics and operations will keep this in mind in order to provide for firefighter safety at all times.

A task force was sent to the Jennie’s Peak fire in Wheeler County Sunday night to assist with structural protection on about 20 homes in the area. The task force returned to south Gilliam County Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Mile Post 6 Fire south of Madras that closed Highway 26 for a time late Friday is 50 percent contained at 1,500 acres, according to the Northwest Coordination Center. More than 100 people remain on that blaze.

Jefferson County Undersheriff Marc Heckathorn said Monday afternoon all evacuation notices for the Mile Post 6 Fire near Haystack Reservoir and the Spring Creek Fire near Lake Billy Chinook have been lifted, noting that “heavy smoke in the county is not from these fires.”

COFMS noted a troubling milestone Monday: With a busy wildfire season far from over, the Redmond Air Tanker Base just passed the 1 million gallon mark for retardant dropped on fires across the West this season.

To the south in Lake County, the Watson Creek Fire 13 miles west of Paisley has grown to nearly 26,000 acres on the Fremont-Winema National Forest as nearly 600 firefighters are on the lines and in support roles, according to the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership’s Facebook page.

Officials said the terrain is challenging, but favorable wind conditions assisted firefighting efforts Sunday night.

A Level 3 evacuation order was issued Sunday by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and remained in place Monday for about 15 homes in Lakeview Estates, just north of Campbell and Deadhorse lakes.

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