A new "holdover" fire that broke out Sunday afternoon north of Mount Washington and quickly grew to 350 acres held at that size Monday as the blaze was slowed by moving into areas burned in previous wildfires. Meanwhile, the governor ordered in outside help on Warm Springs Reservation fires and a new set of thunderstorms rolled through the High Desert Sunday, peppering the area with hundreds more lightning strikes.
Three fires in the High Cascades Complex have hit 28,000 acres and were threatening nearly 200 homes, so Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a conflagration so structure-protection firefighters from the Willamette Valley could be dispatched to the scene.
Firefighters will again be watching for new smoke plumes in the new week, after Sunday's storm put down another 740 lightning strikes in Central Oregon, according to the regional dispatch center in Prineville. A Red Flag Warning was in place until 11 p.m. Sunday. While the storms passed through the area, some areas received welcome, even heavy precipitation -- close to an inch in 15 minutes near Warm Springs, according to one weather spotter
There were over 2,400 lightning strikes recorded Sunday statewide, mainly in the central and northeastern portions of the state, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Concerns locally for the new week include a potential rise in winds that could challenge fire crews, though the forecast for cooler daytime temperatures should be of some help.
A new fire was spotted by Black Butte Lookout around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, burning north of Mt. Washington within the Mt. Washington Wilderness, 15 miles west of Sisters and about eight miles west of Black Butte Ranch. The smoke plume was visible over a wide area, including Santiam Pass travelers.
The Shadow Lake Fire had burned about 350 acres by sunset, but officials said crews stopped forward progress to the east, and the acreage figure held Monday morning.
The fire is primarily burning inside the Mt. Washington Wilderness, with 20 percent of the fire is burning outside of the wilderness boundary on the Sisters Ranger District. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The fire burned into the 2006 George Washington fire scar, slowing its eastward movement. The fire is surrounded by old fire scars that are assisting in suppression efforts; however, officials said Monday there are still several pockets of unburned fuel between the fire scars and the fire itself. With the unburned fuel, there is potential for the fire to put out smoke for several days.
A Type III Incident Management Team (led by Travis Moyer) from Central Oregon assumed command of the fire Sunday at 3 p.m. As of Monday morning, it was staffed by three hand crews, seven engines, a bulldozer, two water tenders and miscellaneous overhead personnel.
Weather for Monday was predicted to be a little cooler, with a high of 72 and winds out of the northwest at 10-20 mph. With the increased wind, the focus of Monday?s work for firefighters is to continue to secure the eastern and northern portions of the fire.
There is an area closure pending, and all roads and trails in the fire area are marked at this time -- more details are due out later.
Meanwhile,, with many fires newly contained in the Sisters area and the potential for others to start, hunters heading out for bow season should 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 roads and should watch for dangerous burned out stump-holes and snags in recently burned areas. Check in with local agencies before you head out to see if there are any additional fire restrictions or campground closures.
Clark said despite the small size, the Shadow Lake Fire was being staffed as a "priority fire" due to the history of significant wildfires in the area over the years, several of which have prompted evacuations or evacuation alerts at the Black Butte Ranch resort west of Sisters.
With that history -- and one fire years ago that burned two homes on the corner of BBR -- ranch residents and visitors were given notice of the fire Sunday and told it was roughly eight miles away and posed no danger to the resort at present, meaning a Level 1 alert.
Thanks to the numerous fires, a pall of thick smoke blew south Sunday into populous areas of the High Desert, shrouding the sun, mountains and horizons in a thick coat of gray, to the point where pollution reached "unhealthy" levels as monitored by the Oregon DEQ.
Bend reached the level of "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in wildfire smoke (particulates) Sunday morning, while Sisters had the same label for its overall air quality and Prineville reached the "moderate" level of pollution.
Later Sunday morning, Bend's wildfire air quality fell to "unhealthy" for all, while Prineville's rose to "unhealthy for sensitive groups" -- and Klamath Falls worsened, from "healthy" to "very unhealthy."
Conditions improved in the early afternoon, with Bend's reading back to "unhealthy for sensitive groups," the same as Prineville, and Klamath Falls just plain "unhealthy."
And by mid-afternoon, the Bend pollution level had dropped back to "moderate" but it remained "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in Prineville and "unhealthy" in Klamath Falls.
At the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" level, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality urges children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions to take measures to limit their outdoor activities.
More than 300 firefighters continue to work on the Hancock Fire Complex of several blazes burning in the Clarno area, in the north-central part of the state. One fire, in the Thirtymile Creek area, continues to have wind-driven fire activity, so the estimated acreage grew Sunday, to 45,000 acres, but officials said that also was due to a large burnout and more accurate mapping of the fires.
The fire remained only 50 percent contained, but full containment is estimated by midnight Tuesday morning, officials said on the fires' InciWeb Website update.
While two of the fires within the complex, northwest of Fossil, have been contained, another fire in the Thirtymile Creek area continued to have higher fire activity Sunday, one day after expanding west and northwest toward the John Day River. The west flank backed down into the Thirtymile Wilderness Study Area and moved north and south coming out of Thirtymile Canyon.