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170-acre Cougar Butte Fire now fully contained

Closures lifted, mop-up to continue

Progress on Cougar Butte Fire

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Fire at 170 acres, 90 percent contained; pre-evacuation notice, closures lifted)

Firefighters had the 170-acre Cougar Butte Fire fully contained by midday Monday, but officials said crews will be continuing mop-up work on the blaze 11 miles west of Bend for the next few days..

The fire is secured on all sides by hand lines and roads that function as containment lines, said Deschutes National Forest spokeswoman Kassidy Kern.

Crews were spending the Memorial Day holiday continuing to mop up hot spots and secure containment lines.

At noon, the Type 3 incident management team called in to oversee the effort transitioned command to local Type 4 resources, Kern said.

On Sunday, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office lifted the Level 1 pre-evacuation notice for the Skyliners subdivision, issued Friday after the fire broke out.

Closures of the Tumalo Falls Day Use Area and Forest Service Road 4603, as well as other road closures have now been lifted. But officials asked area visitors to use caution, as firefighters and their resources are still on scene.

Resources on the fire Sunday included four wildland fire engines, two bulldozers, an interagency Hotshot crew, four 20-person hand crews, a Type 2 water-dropping helicopter and several overhead (management) and support positions.

Meanwhile, in Lake County, firefighters responded Saturday to Incident 217, a small new fire about a mile north of state Highway 31 and south of Hole-in-the-Ground, holding it to 9 ½ acres, Kern said.

Saturday afternoon, officials said a hand-dug line on the east side of the Cougar Butte Fire was complete and roads were holding the lines on the north and south sides of the blaze.

They also thanked the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest interagency Hotshot crew for its great work building line on the fire's west flank, and said water-dropping helicopters were playing a major role helping firefighters on the ground.

Deschutes National Forest spokeswoman Jaimie Olle explained what crews were up to as they dug the fire lines:

"You try and get a swath usually about 3 feet wide, down to that mineral soil, so the fire won't cross it, and get rid of all that vegetation, so hopefully the fire will stay in the area we are looking for it to."

"It caught me by surprise," Skyliners resident Bob Crain said Saturday, "because they have a prescribed burn for down the road this week or next week, so I thought maybe they did it earlier. It threw the whole neighborhood for a loop."

The fire broke out in the Tumalo Creek drainage late Friday afternoon just as the big Memorial Day weekend began, growing to 125 acres by nightfall.

Officials said the Cougar Butte Fire, named for the area above Tumalo Falls where it began, was at 10 percent containment by the time darkness fell. It was reported shortly after 3 p.m. by residents who spotted it from Skyliners Road, in the area where the pre-evacuation notice was later issued.

Initial estimates were that the fire had burned about 10 acres in manzanita, and that grew to an estimated 30 acres by shortly after 5 p.m., Kern said. It was estimated at 35 acres by around 8 p.m., with a water-dropping helicopter helping crews building containment lines on the fire's eastern flank, and the 125-acre size was reported by 9:30 p.m.

The fire burned toward the west in brush and mixed timber, partly in the scar of the 1979, 4,300-acre Bridge Creek Fire, and north of Skyliners Road. Garibay said it was about a half-mile northwest of the Skyliners subdivision, where the Level 1 evacuation notice was issued shortly before 6 p.m. Friday, also for the Tumalo Lake Lodge.

A Level 1 notice advises residents to begin getting ready for potential later evacuation and to monitor emergency services Websites and local media for more information. It is the lowest alert level, compared to Level 2, which advises residents to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and Level 3, which directs people to leave an area.

“Those persons who will need additional time to exit an area or have health conditions (especially respiratory conditions that could be made worse by smoke) should consider leaving. You are encouraged to prepare or even move livestock and pets out of the area. Be prepared to leave if conditions worsen,” the sheriff's office notice stated.

More information on the three levels of evacuation notices can be found at: https://sheriff.deschutes.org/community/safety/be-prepared-for-disaster/wildfire-preparation/

For fire updates, visit: http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com/

Law enforcement officers worked with forest rangers to clear visitors from the area of the Tumalo Falls Trailhead. 

“Those recreating or planning to recreate in the immediate area should evacuate the trail and parking area at Tumalo Falls until responding personnel have the fire extinguished,” an initial sheriff’s office alert advised Friday. 

The very early start to wildfire season brings echoes of the June 7, 2014 Two Bulls Fire, which burned nearly 7,000 acres and also prompted evacuations of about 250 homes and alerts for hundreds more in the area west of Bend.


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