(Update: Monday morning update; fire at 280 acres)
CULVER, Ore. (KTVZ) – A lightning-sparked fire that prompted campground evacuations and pre-evacuation alerts in the Three Rivers subdivision near Lake Billy Chinook has grown to 280 acres and is 5% contained, officials said Monday as another red flag warning and threat of more thunderstorms loomed.
Six engine crews and a bulldozer worked through the night on the Fly Creek Fire, officials said in Monday morning’s update. A Type 2 initial attack crew also was on scene.
Air support will be dipping water out of Lake Billy Chinook Monday, they said, and portions of the lake will be closed for public safety.
Tankers were dropping retardant around the fire's perimeter Monday to help control spotting and give crewstime to build direct lines to stop the blaze, which was spreading toward the east, toward Fly Creek.
NewsChannel 21's Bola Gbadebo headed to Lake Billy Chinook Monday to see how people in the popular recreation area are dealing with the fire and smoky conditions and the impact on their plans as well as on nearby businesses. Her report will be on KTVZ at Five.
Thunderstorms rumbling through Central Oregon Sunday evening ignited several lightning-sparked fires crews were still tackling Monday.
Firefighters have responded to a total of 15 wildfires started by lightning Sunday and overnight. Resources are still working to locate six additional smoke reports, officials said Monday.
The Level 3 “GO NOW” evacuation notice issued last night because of the Fly Creek Fire for the Perry South and Monty Campgrounds remains in place. The Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation notice for the Three Rivers area remains in place as well. For information on evacuations, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/JeffersonCountyORSheriff.
Firefighters responded to the West Cultus Fire, located roughly 2 miles northwest of Cultus Lake on the Deschutes National Forest, Sunday evening. The fire is a tenth-of-an acre, burning in heavy dead and down. One hand crew is assigned to the fire Monday and making good progress.
Resources are also mopping up the 1-acre Juniper Creek Fire, located roughly 10 air miles south of the Fly Creek Fire.
On Monday, frequent lightning and strong outflow winds will be the primary concerns for any new and existing fires. Winds in combination with low humidity will cause rapid fire spread in dry grassy areas. Outflow winds of 30 to 50 mph may occur with thunderstorms. Some storms may produce heavy rainfall, others are expected to be drier in nature. Red Flag Warnings issued by The National Weather Service remain in effect across most of Central Oregon Monday.
For current wildland fire information, the public can visit centraloregonfire.org or follow fire information on Twitter @CentralORfire.
The Fly Creek Fire near the Balancing Rocks along the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook was one of eight starts reported in that area of the Sisters Ranger District in Jefferson County.
Forest Service spokeswoman Kassidy Kern said the fire was “moving quickly in grass, brush and juniper.” Firefighters initially responded along with three heavy air tankers that were able to drop several loads of retardant on the fire before dark. Engines and crews remained on the fire into the night, along with a bulldozer, working to construct containment lines.
Due to rapid fire growth on Fly Creek, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office issued a Level 3 "GO NOW" evacuation notice for the Perry South and Monty campgrounds and a Level 2 "GET SET" fire evacuation notice was issued for the Three Rivers and Montgomery Shores areas. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/JeffersonCountyORSheriff.
Sheriff's deputies responded to the two campgrounds to deliver the evacuation notice and assist campers in leaving the area, Sgt. David Pond said. An emergency alert was also sent, but deputies responded due to lack of reliable cell service in that area.
The first text alert sent authorities shortly after 8 p.m. warned people in the Three Rivers-Lake Billy Chinook area to “Get Ready Get Set to Evacuate.” A text update at 9:40 p.m. said the Level 2 notice was for the Three Rivers and Montgomery Shores areas: "Please be 'set' to go if needed!"
Earlier Sunday evening, firefighters had responded to three new lightning-sparked fires, two on the Ochoco National Forest and one on the Crescent Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest. All were held small, 1/10th of an acre.
In total, 16 "smokes" were reported Sunday afternoon and evening across Central Oregon. Firefighters were responding to seven late Sunday and will engage the remaining fires Monday.
Kern said fire lookouts were continually scanning the skies, while Oregon Department of Forestry cameras were set at strategic high points around Central Oregon to spot new starts quickly.
In advance of the latest round of storms, two "heavy" Skycrane helicopters were positioned at Bend Airport, Kern confirmed Sunday.
One small brush fire Sunday evening south of Redmond may have had a more worrisome, even criminal cause.
Witnesses said a driver heading south on Southwest 61st Street at Young Avenue was throwing burning (smoking) materials out the window, according to Redmond Fire & Rescue. Their crews stopped the fire at an eighth to a quarter-acre.
Battalion Chief Ken Brown said Deschutes County sheriff's deputies and Oregon State Police troopers were following up on leads and the witness reports to find the responsible party. Neither agency offered any initial information Sunday night.
Stormy weather also tested lines over the weekend on the 41-acre Tolo Mountain Fire on the Crescent Ranger District, which reached 50% containment Sunday.
Meanwhile, a new fire, the Windigo Fire, about five miles north-northwest near Windigo Pass on the Umpqua National Forest quickly grew to 1,300 acres, prompting closure of the Pacific Crest Trail and other trails and forest roads in the area. It was burning in timber off Forest Service Road 60 on the Douglas-Klamath county line.
The National Weather Service has issued another Red Flag Warning for abundant lightning across most of Central Oregon Monday. Isolated to scattered thunderstorms are forecast, along with the potential for gusty outflow winds that may challenge fire suppression efforts.