(Update: New size estimate; Level 3, 1 evacuation alerts)
LAKEVIEW, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A new wildfire broke out Tuesday afternoon 15 miles northwest of Lakeview and raced across 1,500 acres by nightfall, with no sign of slowing down, officials said.
The Cougar Peak Fire was reported around 1:45 p.m. on the Fremont-Winema National Forest's Lakeview Ranger District.
The fire was estimated to be 1,500 acres, with no containment. Fire behavior is active, with running, torching and spotting in mixed conifer and brush, officials said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands are also threatened.
Wildland firefighters continued battle the blaze into the night, with numerous resources on order. A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been ordered.
Turbulent winds affected air resources Tuesday. Despite that, at one point there were five heavy air tankers dropping retardant to slow the fire in the afternoon and evening.
Smoke from the fire is highly visible along Oregon State Highway 140 between Lakeview and Quartz Mountain, as well as along U.S. Highway 395. Smoke from the Cougar Peak Fire is also impacting the communities of Paisley, Valley Falls and the Summer Lake area.
Drivers were urged use caution due to increased traffic from wildland firefighting equipment and possible reduced visibility from smoke. Area residents and visitors also were asked to avoid traveling on forest roads near the fire, including Forest Road 28 and Forest Road 3870, also known as Cottonwood Road.
Recreation sites in the area were closed, including Upper Cottonwood Campground, about 1 1/2 miles west of the fire and Cottonwood Creek Trailhead. The campground was evacuated Tuesday afternoon by Lake County sheriff’s deputies.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management and the incident commander have identified areas for Level 3 (Go Now) and Level 1 (Be Ready) evacuations in the fire area.
Lake County Evacuations
Level 3 Evacuation Notice (GO NOW – Residents should leave IMMEDIATELY.)
- Lower Cottonwood Road north to Forest Road 3870-041.
Level 1 (GET READY – Residents should make preparations for potential evacuation.)
- Forest Road 28, from the Forest Boundary northwest to Cox Flat.
A Red Flag Warning for strong, gusty winds and low relative humidity expired at 8 p.m.
Area residents and visitors were reminded that Public Use Restrictions are still in effect on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, as well as fire restrictions in effect on neighboring landscapes.
Fire danger remains “Extreme” in Lake and Klamath counties. Extremely dry fuels and seasonal winds can make even a small spark rapidly grow into a large wildfire. These fires can be destructive, resulting in evacuations, damage to property and natural resources, and affects public and firefighter safety.
The public is responsible for ensuring that they have reviewed and are aware of the restrictions in place for the landscape they plan to recreate or work on. For all agencies, violation of these prohibitions could result in citations, fines and even imprisonment, depending on the agency and order.
The latest restrictions and regulations, including for ODF and the federal agencies, are available at https://scofmp.org/restrictions.shtml.