(Update: More on other new fires)
Blaze pushing east toward Highway 97
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A new round of thunderstorms flashed through the High Desert Wednesday evening with dramatic skies and lightning peppering the region amid a fire weather warning, as crews rushed to stop a new fire that began on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and raced east, jumping the Deschutes River and growing to 1,500 acres.
Warm Springs Fire Management was dispatched to the Rattlesnake Fire, reported around 2 p.m. Structural protection firefighters were able to prevent damage to two homes as the fast-moving fire burned about 100 acres on the reservation before jumping the Deschutes River and moving northeast onto Prineville District Bureau of Land Management-managed lands. The fire was estimated at 1,500 acres with 0% containment.
The Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Redmond reported about 20 new fire reports it was busy tackling late Wednesday, many apparently lightning-sparked.
The Rattlesnake Fire was under the unified command of Warm Springs Incident Commander Lionel Smith and Type 3 Central Oregon Fire Management Service Incident Commander Chad Schmidt.
Officials said Wednesday evening, "Fire behavior remains active, pushing east toward Highway 97. Four large air tankers, two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and a heavy helicopter were responding to the blaze, in addition to the Central Oregon Rappellers and Redmond Hotshots.
While there were no closures associated with the fire by 9 p.m., South Junction Campground remained inaccessible and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office was assessing the need for evacuations of private homes and campgrounds along Highway 97 and the Lower Deschutes.
Central Oregon firefighters responded to 18 new blazes Wednesday, the largest being the Wrentham Market Fire, estimated at 10,000 acres east of Dufur in Wasco County. The fire, which began Tuesday afternoon, was threatening about 20 structures on Wednesday as it burned through wheat fields and brush, moving toward the Deschutes River. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office issued Level 3 evacuation orders Tuesday for homes in the area, affecting 70 to 100 people.
One of Wednesday’s new fires, the Ryegrass Fire, was estimated at 100 acres and was burning east of the Maury Mountains and south of the Paulina Highway on Prineville District BLM lands. A Hotshot crew and three engine crews were responding, and the fire was 0% contained late Wednesday.
Firefighters also were responding to another new fire, Incident 460, new Pringle Falls Campground, northwest of La Pine on the Deschutes National Forest. La Pine Rural Fire Protection District was engaged in structure protection while Forest Service engines and crews worked to contain the fire. There was no initial size or containment estimate.
Much of Central Oregon remained under a Red Flag Warning tonight for abundant lightning, wind and low relative humidity through midnight.
Earlier Wednesday, officials said the smoke in the Central Oregon area was blowing north from the Lava and Tennant fires near Mt. Shasta in Northern California, which have kept Highway 97 closed near the border for the past few days.
For more information on wildfires in Central Oregon, visit: www.centraloregonfire.org