Sunday's storms dropped enough rain on the north part of the fire to slow its movement, but also created hazardous, slippery road conditions for firefighters. The southern part of the fire got little rainfall, and at least three new fires were detected near Clarno after the storms moved through, with more expected as the grassy fuels dry out Monday.
Firefighters made good progress over the weekend on Branch II of the fires, near Clarno, with four of those five fires now in patrol status. But Fire 641, about two miles east of the Washington Family Ranch, crew to more than 2,000 acres, spreading to the south and west.
The fires are burning on both sides of Highway 218 and on both sides of the John Day River. Firefighters remain challenged by steep slopes, inaccessible and rugged terrain, and light, flashy fuels that ignite and burn quickly.
The Central Oregon Type II Incident Management Team (led by Mark Rapp) is in command of the fire and is now providing information about this fire on a wildfire incident website at www.inciweb.org, including maps, photos and updates.
Firefighters also are working on three fires burning east of Twickenham and north of Mitchell. Incident 615 was holding as of late Sunday at 550 acres. The Dead Dog Fire (Incident 614) remained at 2,500 acres Sunday evening and was 40 percent contained, with full containment expected Thursday. About 40 firefighters with support personnel continue to work on this fire and are challenged by very limited access, high winds and steep slopes.
Incident 656 was at about 270 acres. About 65 firefighters are assigned to this incident and made good progress Sunday. All of the fires are burning in a mix of grass and shrub, and are terrain and wind driven.
The ORCA (Oregon and California Interagency) Incident Management Team, led by Brett Fillis,) took over the fires in the High Cascades Complex on the Warm Springs Reservation including the Powerline, West Hills and Razorback fires.
The Razorback fire was estimated Sunday at 20,239 acres and continues to burn on both sides of the Deschutes River. The Lower Deschutes River is not closed to rafting at this time; however, fire officials and the Jefferson County Sheriff Office did a precautionary evacuation of South Junction and Trout Creek Campgrounds Saturday night. The campgrounds remain closed to camping.
Rafters can access the river through Warm Springs and Trout Creek launch sites; however, fire officials want to warn boaters the fire is not contained and vehicles left in the launch areas may be at risk if the fire activity increases.
In addition, rafters should understand there is a 15-mile section between South Junction and Dant that has burned on both sides of the river. This has limited the campsites available for camping, and rafters should use caution when floating through and should not stop along this section or interfere with suppression operations. Rafters may be asked to temporarily hold up their float to allow helicopters to dip their buckets into the river.
Highway 197 was closed again at 5 p.m. Sunday south of Maupin, between mileposts 46-67 due to increased fire activity, but reopened later in the evening. If other closures occur, travelers can use a detour by driving through Warm Springs or toward Grass Valley on Highway 97 to take Highway 216 toward Maupin.
With many fires newly contained and the potential for others to start, hunters heading out for bow season were urged to use caution when heading out to their units. They should avoid camping in or hiking through areas with active fire, watch for increased fire traffic on forest and rangeland roads and should watch for dangerous burned out stump-holes and snags in recently burned areas. All hunter warming fires and campfires should be completely extinguished when not attended.
A new, less powerful string of thunderstorms moved through the High Desert Saturday evening, fortunately accompanied by less lightning and more rain -- but a growing number of large-acreage fires were causing problems, especially on or near the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and along the Lower Deschutes River.
Smoky skies across the High Desert Saturday came from several blazes burning on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, telling those not directly affected by a number of large lightning-sparked wildfires across the region that the woods and rangelands are burning, and hot, dry weather means more challenges to come.
The DEQ's Bend and Prineville wildfire-smoke monitoring stations reported "moderate" wildfire air quality Saturday, not the first time in recent days the smoke levels have risen, causing issues for people sensitive to smoke.
And for the third time in recent days, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning through 3 p.m. Sunday, warning of "abundant lightning" from thunderstorms in Central and Northeast Oregon.
They said scattered thunderstorms would develop in the late afternoon and evening, likely diminish overnight and develop again Sunday, accompanied by some rainfall, at least in places.
The busiest location, and source of most of the smoke, was the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, where more than 30 fires have broken out since Wednesday night?s lightning. But others have cropped up in several locations, among more than 200 other fires reported to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center -- and there are dozens more of note elsewhere in the state.
Fewer new fires were reported in Central Oregon Friday, allowing fire crews to make progress on the blazes already reported and keep watch for any new ?sleeper? or holdover fires to emerge.
With all those blazes burning, the smoke blanketed the sky this morning, flowing down to Bend.
Atop Pilot Butte, where you can usually catch a clear glimpse of the mountains and see for miles, everything was smoked out and very hazy again Saturday.
Hikers and joggers who climb the butte on a daily basis say these conditions, combined with the hot weather, make their exercise a little ... interesting.
"I feel it in my throat, lungs and chest, and you can definitely taste it -- the smell is just overpowering," said one Bend couple.