Crook County

Waterman Complex Fire threat looms over homes

Fire officials say flames could reach Marks Creek soon

Waterman Complex Fire threatens homes

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Heat and winds steered the 6,020-acre Waterman Complex Fire toward trouble Wednesday as the residents of the Marks Creek area were told to pack up and leave after an early-morning Level 3 evacuation notice.

What homeowners will come back to depends on the weather and progress on the fire lines, especially the 3,800-acre Bailey Butte Fire, just 5 percent contained by late Thursday.

But it's not looking good.

"There's a pretty good chance it will make a push toward the houses," said Oregon Team 3 Structure Protection Supervisor Kurt Solomon.

The fires are burning only a few miles away from the roughly 30 homes in the remote area of Marks Creek, along Hwy. 26E between Prineville and Mitchell.

Some residents packed what they could Wednesday morning and scrambled to get out.

"We're kind of nervous," said resident Fred Roniger. "The more you think about it  -- what you should take, what you shouldn't. Because you can't take everything."

But others who have watched parts of Central Oregon burn for decades aren't budging.

Rod Cook said his family is ready to leave, but won't hit the road until they can see flames from their house.

"If it isn't blowing and coming down through, I'd rather sleep in my own bed tonight," Cook said.

Meanwhile, structure protection crews poured into the area. Firefighters from Crook and Jefferson counties and Crooked River Ranch went over their strategy to protect homes at a command post set up at the Mount Bachelor Academy, one end of a long closure of Hwy. 26E toward Mitchell.

"We'll have an engine protecting the house," Solomon said. "As soon as the fire threat has passed, it moves down to the next house or couple houses, and the engines just keep leap-frogging past each other."

The structure protection crews have surveyed the different homes and checked on those residents who have decided against leaving.

Now they'll wait along with residents  -- everyone hoping fire lines will hold, so they can go home.

More information on the Waterman Complex can be found at:

"I hope it all works out and they get it under control," Roniger said.

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