Geneva 12 Wildfire nearing full containment
Meanwhile, big Nevada blaze spreads into SE Oregon
Nearly 400 firefighters held the lines Wednesday on the more than 1,300-acre Geneva Fire near Lake Billy Chinook, pushing it to 80 percent containment, with full containment expected Thursday evening, officials said.
Meanwhile, a now-123,551-acre wildfire in northern Nevada has grown northward into southeast Oregon. The Holloway Fire began from Sunday's lightning, 25 miles east of Denio, Nevada. More than 200 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is only 5 percent contained.
Tuesday's afternoon winds tested lines on the north and east flanks of the lightning-sparked Geneva 12 Fire that threatened the Three Rivers subdivision on Monday, officials said. All the containment lines held on the blaze, about 15 miles northeast of Sisters.
Firefighters worked to lay out six miles of hose around the south and east flanks to mop up smokes and hot spots. The northwest corner of the fire continued to burn during the heat of the day, consuming unburned fuels and sending up visible smoke.
A night shift of several engines patrolled and mopped up hot spots on the west and north flanks. An infrared flight over the fire Tuesday night determined the acreage at 1,337 acres.
On Wednesday, firefighters worked to hold and improve existing containment lines, mop up smokes and hotspots, and patrol for potential spot fires across containment lines. Lake Chinook Fire and Rescue continues to provide support to the incident. Motorists are asked to please drive with caution if traveling in the fire area.
Mark Rapp’s Oregon Incident Management Team 3 - Central Oregon assumed command of the fire at noon Tuesday. The incident command post is located at Sisters Middle School. Transfer back to local management is expected Friday morning.
The fire is burning on Crooked River National Grasslands managed by the Ochoco National Forest, private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, and lands managed by the Prineville District of the Bureau of Land Management. A temporary flight restriction of five miles has been placed over the fire area.
You can track the latest info on the fire at www.inciweb.org/incident/3104
Meanwhile, crews responded to several new starts around the region Tuesday as more hot, dry weather brought likely lightning-sparked "holdover" fires to life.
Most were quickly contained, but crews also tackled one new start, Incident 416, that burned about four acres of grass and juniper near the Powell Butte Highway, three miles south of Pronghorn Resort.
The Geneva Fire fire was spotted at midday Monday, threatening homes in the Three Rivers subdivision. About 100 mostly vacation homes (about 15 people) were evacuated around 4 p.m., but the evacuation order was lifted around 10 p.m. after the fire behavior calmed down, officials said.
No structures were damaged or lost within the Three Rivers subdivision; however, a pickup and a utility trailer were lost within the fire perimeter, near Geneva Road.
Officials said fire crews will focus Tuesday on holding the perimeter through the heat of the day and building and improving containment lines. Primary concerns include hot and dry temperatures and the potential for wind in the afternoon that could cause increased fire behavior and spotting.
The size and containment figures were holding steady Tuesday afternoon, a "fairly quiet" period with "no flareups" despite the returning heat of the day, said Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.
"They are working on hose lay around the perimeter, and the most focus is on mopping up the northern perimeter," along Graham Road, Clark said. But it was still hot, in the 90s, and "they're definitely seeing the winds pick up."
Elsewhere in the region, the total of new fire starts since Sunday's storms has reached about 40, but the biggest other than the Geneva 12 are a couple that reached 4-6 acres before being contained.
No major thunderstorms are in the near-term horizon, as one storm system due at midweek apparently has "lost its oomph" and won't be a major threat, Clark said.
No road closures were in effect Tuesday, although the public was asked to stay out of the area to avoid impacting firefighting traffic. Anyone traveling in the Three Rivers area was urged to slow down and watch for fire-related traffic.
A Type II Incident Management Team (Incident Commander Mark Rapp) was taking over control of the fire battle Tuesday. The Lake Chinook Fire Department will continue to manage structural protection.
More than 125 firefighters were working the fire, with more crews coming on Tuesday, officials said. Total fire personnel was expected to exceed 200 by late in the day.
As of Tuesday morning, there were three bulldozers, four 20-person hand crews, seven wildland engines, 15 structural engines from neighboring departments such as the city of Bend, Redmond Fire, Sisters/Camp Sherman Fire, and La Pine Fire, and one water tender.
Firefighters will continue using a Type I (heavy) helicopter and a Type III (light) helicopter to put water on hot spots. Air tankers remain available to use as needed.
More firefighters around Central Oregon remain available to respond to any new fires. Lightning “holdover” fires can smolder in heavy duff or in the root systems at the bases of trees for several days before the ground and vegetation dries out enough for the fire to begin spreading.
Local fire officials have firefighters placed around the region Oregon to respond to any new starts reported by fire lookouts or reconnaissance aircraft.
The Geneva 12 Fire, reported just after noon Monday, burned in a mix of juniper and sagebrush beside the Three Rivers subdivision.
"I was a little nervous a little earlier today," resident George Sanborn said Monday evening. "Around 3 p.m., I could see the red flames and black smoke pouring out. That's when they called in the borate bombers."
It was by far the largest of more than 30 new fires tackled since thunderstorms peppered the region with about 3,300 lightning strikes Sunday night.
The Lake Chinook Fire Department ordered the evacuation of about 100 homes in Division 1 of the rural subdivision, which was struck 10 years ago last month by the Eyerly Fire, which destroyed 18 homes in the popular vacation spot.
Many of the homes scattered in the evacuation area are unoccupied vacation homes, Clark said.
"We were sitting out relaxing because of the heat, and they just came up and said, 'You've got to leave," said evacuee Wilford Lowell Trump.
"We chose to live out here in the fire danger area," said Larry Lolley, another evacuee. "I don't think we get panicky, but we all try and be careful."
The fire had burned northward by Monday evening to the area of Graham Road, only about 100 yards south of the subdivision, Clark said, where Sheriff Jim Adkins said ground and air fire crews made a dramatic stand to prevent flames from crossing the road to an area of homes.
Clark noted that homes are fairly scattered in the area, which "gets more populated as you go (north) toward the lake."
A structural protection task force of firefighters from around Central Oregon was called in to protect the homes in case the fire can't be stopped.
An Oregon Department of Forestry air tanker joined the firefight, dropping water on the fire, along with two helicopters, seven Forest Service and ODF engines, a bulldozer and water tender.
A staging area for evacuees was set up on the east side of the Lake Billy Chinook Airport, but officials asked that people heading there stay clear of firefighting activity. A helicopter base was set up there for two water-dropping helicopters working to battle the blaze.
While no homes weren lost, one Three Rivers visitor said they lost their travel trailer and pickup to the fast-moving flames, something officials later confirmed. They said they were out riding their ATVs and returned to find the blaze had cut through their friend's property, and their vehicles were destroyed.
Powerful thunderstorms had pounded their way north through the High Desert Sunday evening, peppering Central Oregon with heavy rain, hail, wind and thousands of lightning strikes, several starting small fires and prompting watch for more to come.
Central Oregon was hit by about 3,300 lightning strikes from the string of storms, sparking 17 new fire reports by Monday morning, as crews worked on several small fires, said Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.
"More fires are expected to be reported throughout the day," Clark said in Monday morning's update, adding that crews were out checking on the fires as reported.
Engine and hand crews, smokejumpers and helicopters were tackling the fires, and while all were small Monday morning, one grew fast as the day heated up.
Bowles also said hazy skies prompting concern about a local fire in Central Oregon actually was smoke streaming north from fires in Northern California and Nevada. Some of the smoke also could be from the Lava Fire, which has burned more than 21,000 acres northeast of Fort Rock but at last report was 85 percent contained.
Some areas of Central Oregon received heavy rain and hail from Sunday night's storms, but others were relatively dry, she said. That means the week's forecasts of continued warm weather boosts the potential for smoldering, lightning-sparked "holdover" fires to emerge over the next few days, hidden in a tree's base or roots until it dries out.
"These types of fires can show up for days or even weeks after a storm," Clark said.
A Jefferson County sheriff's dispatcher said around 9:30 p.m. Sunday they were operating on backup power and that Madras, Metolius and Culver had been without power "for at least the last hour." She asked that drivers treat all intersections as four-way stops until power is restored.
Pacific Power said more than 9,500 customers were affected by the "transmission interruption) around the county and that emergency repairs were under way.
Before 11 p.m., the number without power was down to about 5,200, and it dropped to only about 400 by 1:30 a.m. You can check Pacific Power's Oregon outage page for updates is at http://www.pacificpower.net/ed/po/ooi.html,
One of the hundreds of lightning strikes that peppered the High Desert apparently struck the roof of the First Presbyterian Church in southeast Bend, sparking a fire that caused about $75,000 damage to the main sanctuary, fire officials said.
Callers to Deschutes County 911 just before 9 p.m. said a lightning strike occurred near Bend High School (located across Ninth Street from the church) and they then heard a fire alarm sounding, said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.
The first crews to reach the area found a fire on the roof of the church and the alarm sounding, Derlacki said.
They were able to reach the high roof of the sanctuary with ladders and quickly douse the flames, though Derlacki said crews were staying on scene for several hours to make sure the blaze didn’t extend elsewhere, such as the walls or ceiling. He noted that the amount of energy released when lightning strikes a building can cause wiring to degrade, appliances to fail and pipes to burst.
The National Weather Service in Pendleton issued several severe thunderstorm warnings as the storms marched north, and an NWS spotter southwest of La Pine reported penny- to quarter-sized hail around 6:15 p.m., with winds gusting to 50-60 mph.
An NWS spotter reported lightning also hit a house at Black Butte Ranch, sparking a fire in the attic. And south-southwest of Bend, another spotter said more than an inch of rain fell in 90 minutes.
One lightning strike reportedly made “toast” out of a reader board at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, as the storm moved in just as the county fair was wrapping up its five-day run.. Numerous other lightning-sparked problems were reported around the Bend area as well.
Lightning reportedly struck a home on S. Pine Street in Sisters, while the downpour caused a large leak from the ceiling at Grocery Outlet in Bend.
The NWS already had issued a red flag warning for central and eastern Oregon and Washington, from 11 p.m. Sunday to 11 p.m. Monday for storms producing abundant lightning. Forecasters said they expected very little rainfall away from the core of the storms, though Bend was one of several places hit with storm-related downpours before nightfall.
We have posted more than two dozen dramatic, beautiful photos of Sunday night's lightning in a special slideshow photo album. Feel free to share some info or a few photos of yours by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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