More heavy winds pushed the day-old Pole Creek Fire southwest of Sisters to 4,300 acres on Monday, officials said late in the day – but fortunately, winds were pushing the fire into the Three Sisters Wilderness, not toward populated areas.
Fire bosses said about 200 firefighters were on the line as of Tuesday morning, with many more resources on order. On Monday, most of the heavy burning was in the wilderness and lighter “under-burning” in lower-elevation areas of the fire, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.
Unlike Monday's smoky skies and late-night large brown plume spreading across the darkening skies, the Cascades again were visible Tuesday across most of Central Oregon as the smoke lessened and hugged the ground in cooler temperatures.
But while the flames might not be reaching Sisters, the smoke certainly was -- pushing air quality to "unhealthy" levels, according to the DEQ.
Here's the full Tuesday 8 a.m. update from fire officials:
As of 8:00 p.m. Monday, command and management of suppression efforts for the Pole Creek Fire transferred from the local Type 3 Team, to Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 4 (OR IIMT4), Incident Commander Brian Watts.
Full suppression efforts are being implemented on this incident using direct and indirect methods while maintaining firefighter and public safety as the top priority.
For firefighter and public safety, an area closure is in place around the vicinity of the fire. The closure includes Forest Service roads 15 and 16 several spur roads leading into the fire area, trailheads and the Three Creeks Campground area. Closed roads will be signed, barricaded, or staffed to advise the public of the closure.
Closure maps and area descriptions are available at Deschutes National Forest offices as well as http://inciweb.org/incident/3244/
In the event that there is a need for an evacuation, citizens who use a cell phone or a VoIP phone who live in the affected area should go to www.deschutes.org/citizenalerts to register those devices to receive emergency notifications.
On Monday, crews were able to construct and establish containment lines on portions of the fire. Overnight, firefighters patrolled the fire perimeter for spot fires outside firelines.
Smoke will remain in the area settling at night into valleys and drainages. Density will depend on wind directions and speeds.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Tuesday's plans were to build containment lines and use existing roads and fire breaks to strengthen the line. Crews planned to continue to patrole and respond to spot firs.
The forecasted fire weather: Temperatures will be in the cool 60s on Tuesday, with winds from the east up to 9 mph, shifting to northeast wit gusts of 20 mph. Relative humidity will be in the 20-30 percent range.
The fire was reported just before 11 Sunday morning near the popular Pole Creek Trailhead, sending not just fire crews but search and rescue crews into action.
"There was a number of folks that got themselves in a position where they had to make good decisions very quickly," said Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Coordinator Sgt. Scott Shelton.
On Monday morning a spotter plane assisting the SAR unit swooped over the Three Sisters Wilderness.
"They're going to look for us to make sure that we don't have any hikers on the ground that are in need of help or anything of that nature," Shelton said.
On the ground, heavy machinery was being trucked around the forest on roads now closed to the public. Many of the campgrounds are also closed, and some are being used as staging areas for fire crews.
Battling the blaze is an uphill battle through rough terrain. The forest floor is covered in pine needles ready to fuel the fire.
"Those fuels are dry -- even though we're starting to feel cool, those fuels are still dry," said Forest Service spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean.
At a packed community meeting Monday evening at Sisters High School, officials talked about what happened Sunday, as well as Monday's developments and what may be coming.
Fire managers said colder, even sub-freezing overnight temperatures due in the area will help, and the winds are expected to shift to the east, pushing the fire where they want it. But they said it would continue to burn until fall rains, so they will devote resources to stop its progress and not burn a large segment of the wilderness.
Sheriff Larry Blanton said authorities are preparing in case the winds do push the fire closer to Sisters, and Sisters-Camp Sherman RFPD officials are preparing for the worst, just in case.