One day after Oregon was peppered with thousands of lightning strikes, crews scrambled to put out numerous new blazes, including one near Johnson Creek east of Prineville, as others fought a 15,000-acre group of five fires around Clarno that forced a camp evacuation, and about 30 fires of up to 1,000 acres on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
Two relative small but very visible fires were stopped at less than 30 acres east of Prineville Wednesday -- but Thursday afternoon, as temperatures rose again, a new blaze broke out a short distance from the earlier one near Johnson Creek, about seven miles east of Prineville.
Incident 608 sent smoke into Prineville Thursday night. It had burned about 20 acres and broke out just a half-mile east of the first fire, which was lined at about 30 acres Wednesday night. The new fire was about 50 percent contained by nightfall, with full containment expected during the night.
The Oregon Department of Forestry ordered in an air tanker to drop retardant on the flames as crews got a partial line around the north side of the fire, burning on private land. Carol Connolly at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center said homes scattered through the area were not reported to be in any danger.
Dozens more fire starts were reported on Thursday and kept firefighters on the move to tackle them at small sizes.
Firefighters worked a 35-acre fire, the Lyle Gap III Fire, burning 6 1/2 miles northeast of Madras. Firefighters were making good progress on that fire, with a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) making several 300-gallon retardant drops.
Firefighters on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation also were very busy Thursday, tackling at least 35 fires of various sizes -- double the number reported earlier in the day.
About 130 firefighters were battling the High Cascades Complex of fires. The largest was a 1,500-acre blaze on Webster Flat, above the Deschutes River and northeast of Warm Springs. Another of about 1,000 acres was burning in the Seekseequa area southeast of Warm Springs.
Another fire near the Warm Springs subdivision known as West Hills had burned about 150 acres, and one in the Antoken Creek Canyon, about 10 miles northeast of Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, was at about 200 acres.
Tribal fire managers said more crews and engines had been ordered, with Friday's tally expected to reach about 250. A helicopter was helping fire crews with water bucket drops, they said, adding that no structures were reported to be in danger.
Luther Clemens, assistant fire management officer, said they were glad another day and night of lightning storms failed to materialize.
"We've been pretty lucky we didn't get the storms again,' he said Thursday evening.
The storms marching north through the central and eastern part of the state led to more than 190 new fire or smoke reports handled by COIDC in Prineville, about 70 of which had been confirmed as fires and responded to by Thursday morning. Most were stopped at a very small size, though extra crews of private contractors were brought in Thursday to help with new fires.
The biggest fires were burning in north-central Oregon: The more than 15,000-acre Hancock Fire, newly classified as a complex of five fires burning on rangeland east of Clarno. The blazes were burning on both sides of Highway 218, as well as both sides of the John Day River, dispatchers said Thursday night, adding that there was no estimate of containment as of yet.
The largest fire, sized at 10,000 acres earlier, triggered the evacuation Wednesday of the Hancock Field Station, a 10-acre science camp run by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, a mile east of Clarno. Burnout operations took place around the camp to protect structures from the fire, a typical rangeland blaze, moving fast through light grass and shrub. The camp no longer was considered threatened due to Thursday's burnout work, said Lisa Clark of COIDC.
Nearly 100 firefighters had been called in, including 15 engine crews, the Prineville and Union Hotshots and a 20-person crew and other resources. A Type II incident management team, led by Mark Rapp,was set to assume command Friday morning,.
About 55 children and a dozen staff members had to leave the Hancock Field Station on Wednesday night, The Associated Press reported..
OMSI spokeswoman Andrea Middleton says the camp staff is ready for this sort of thing, and took the kids to a campground outside Fossil, where they spent the night in tents.
After spending the day at the John Day Fossil Beds, they were to camp out Thursday night at another campground and return to Hancock on Friday.
Firefighting efforts Thursday were concentrated in areas to the south of Bend, around Sisters, on the Crooked River National Grassland and throughout the Ochoco National Forest, along with the Clarno area. Initial attack crews included engines, hand crews, rappellers and helitack crew members, along with smoke jumpers.
A small fire burning south of Black Butte Ranch received several loads of retardant, as a precautionary measure, and crews were working to build a fire line around that blaze, Clark said. She confirmed reports one firefighter was flown to a Bend hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after being struck by a snag.
The two largest fires reported on the High Desert Wednesday night were east of Prineville. Incident 480 ignited near the Allen Creek Reservoir and grew to 25 acres before being contained.
Incident 491 began near Ochoco Reservoir, in the Johnson Creek area about seven miles east of Prineville, was visible to many Prineville residents. That fire, reported just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, grew to 29 acres before being encircled. Oregon Department of Forestry crews played a key roll, according to James Shannon of Crook County Fire and Rescue. They were working Thursday to hold and improve containment lines around both fires and mop up hot spots.
Shannon said ODF send three engines, two bulldozers, a water tender and hand crews.
"No homes were threatened, but we made contact with all homeowners in the area," he said. "Thanks to the help of ODF, we had the fire 100 percent contained at 29 acres after about six hours."