Mop-up work continued Sunday on a 2-day-old 120-acre wildfire that broke out Friday evening off China Hat Road about eight miles southeast of Bend. It is now 50 percent contained.
Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville said aerial mapping was the reason the fire's size estimate increased by 20 acres Saturday -- not due to actual growth of the blaze, which had a bulldozer and tractor line dug around it by Saturday morning by more than 100 firefighters working the blaze.
The main concern was the one all firefighters across the region share -- more thunderstorms moving in. On this fire, accompanying winds could have caused flames to jump those lines, so the priority of the close to 150 firefighters will be to strengthen the line, Clark said.
But the threat of storms in Central Oregon didn't come to pass; Clark said late Saturday afternoon the closest serious lightning strikes were happening in Central and Southern California.
Still, fire crews were kept busy over the weekend by other apparent human-caused fires, from escaped burn barrels to a blaze Sunday afternoon on about 2 acres of BLM land off Hwy. 20E east of Horse Ridge, east of Bend. Authorities were investigating reports it might have been sparked by a vehicle's hot undercarriage.
Clark said another small fire broke out on private land in La Pine. Authorities also dealt with an apparent long-smoldering burn pile that got into some trees.
The Ice Cave Fire, reported about 5:20 p.m. Friday, quickly grew to about 50 acres in less than an hour and 80 acres before 7 p.m., burning in a mix of grass, shrub, pine and juniper trees, Clark said.
Fortunately, winds blew the fire toward the southeast -- away from Bend -- and no structures were threatened, she said.
Mild overnight temperatures, followed by cooler than expected daytime temperatures, helped crews keep the fire in check. Full containment is now expected by next Tuesday.
Authorities also said Saturday the fire was determined to be human-caused, though the specific cause remained under investigation.
The very visible glow of the blaze seen from Bend Friday night made for a nervous sight for many -- and plenty of worried calls to Deschutes County dispatchers from places such as the Sundance subdivision, where 19 homes were destroyed back in 1996 in the 17,000-acre Skeleton Fire, not all that far from the new blaze.
"If we have a fire that's even remotely close to town, it puts everybody on alert," said fire spokeswoman and Project Wildfire Director Katie Lighthall. "Of course, everybody was on alert for this one, and they were very successful with initial attack last (Friday) night."
There was no need, officials said, for even precautionary alerts to residents due to the latest fire, which broke out near the junction of China Hat Road (also known as the 18 road) and the 700 spur, 1 1/2 miles south of Skeleton Cave.
"At the present time, with all the other fires going on, we don't have any retardant available," Forest Service spokeswoman Nancy Wiggins said Friday evening. "If we get it tonight, it'll have to come out of Boise."
Clark said though lightning storms did not reach the High Desert on Saturday, fire crews were ready to respond to any new fires, should storms reach the region in coming days.
She said that while indeed the number and severity of fires around the West is challenging fire bosses, there are more crews available, from Alaska and the Southeast, and the situation just calls for more and better pre-planning, should a new round of storms bring a new outbreak of fires.
New campfire restrictions on public lands in Central Oregon take effect next Tuesday. Clark noted that conditions are very dry east of the Cascades, with sagebrush moisture levels 20 to 30 percent below average.
Meanwhile, in south-central Oregon, lightning late Friday ignited a new fire east of Drews Reservoir, fought as part of the 89,000-acre Barry Point Fire southwest of Lakeview. Crews were dispatched and had it 75 percent contained at 20 acres by morning. Despite winds gusting to 40 mph, little growth was reported in teh fire, now 32 percent contained by about 1,400 personnel.
About 20 miles west of Warm Springs, nearly 470 firefighters are battling the 2,880-acre Waterfalls 2 Fire, which has nearly reached Shitike Creek on the north and the Whitewater River on the south. More firefighters are being called out and burnout operations considered along the creek, which supports federally listed bull trout and spawning spring Chinook salmon.
Elsewhere, the Butte Fire near Windigo Butte has burned about 160 acres on the Deschutes and Umpqua national forests, up just 3 acres since Friday, and was 8 percent contained. There were 249 people assigned to that blaze, which still has a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail, Forest Service Road 60 and three other USFS trails closed.
In the Willamette National Forest, crews on the Buckhead Complex of blazes tackled seven new fires reported from lightning that hit the Middle Fork Ranger District early Saturday morning. Initial reports said they were small, about one-half to two acres in size.