Deschutes County

Nearly month-old Pole Creek Fire still growing

As dry spell lingers, other blazes keep crews busy

BEND, Ore. - Redmond firefighters rushed to douse a grass fire on the west side of the Dry Canyon late Sunday afternoon, as the long dry spell continues to make for high fire danger across the region -- and the nearly month-old Pole Creek Fire southwest of Sisters keeps smoking and growing.

On the Redmond blaze, initial police reports indicated one or more boys, roughly 12 to 13, were seen running from the area where the fire began, toward a bike path tunnel. The fire was doused before causing any damage, though it at first was reported as moving toward a dental office.

Until then, Sunday was quieter for firefighters in Central Oregon than on Saturday, when smoke jumpers tackled several apparent human-caused fires in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Crews also spent hours dousing a blaze near Dillon Falls along the Deschutes River.

All were suspected of being warming or camp fires amid the cold nights and mornings that escaped or were not properly doused.

Valerie Reed at Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch in Prineville said Saturday's fire was reported around 5 a.m. a quarter-mile north (downstream) from Dillon Falls.

A water-dropping helicopter helped more than two-dozen firefighters douse the blaze, which grew to 1 1/2 acres southwest of Bend -- another sign that cooler weather has done little to cut the fire danger in the region.

Crews were on the fire all day, finishing mopping up around 6 p.m. The blaze was believed to be human-caused and was under investigation, Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said.

Deputies and fire officials reminded the public that fuels in most of the region are extremely dry, and people need to remain on alert for fire danger, also remembering to fully extinguish any campfires or warming fires.

Also on Saturday, a smoke column in the Three Sisters Wilderness prompted the Willamette National Forest to send a load of smoke jumpers up who flew over the wilderness and found two other small fires.

Reed said all were believed to be human-caused, as fire officials have been warning against campfires or warming fires from hunters or others in the woods that could escape in the continued dry, warm weather.

Meanwhile, a special flight was conducted Sunday night over the Pole Creek Fire southwest of Sisters, which took infrared pictures showing hot spots within the fire perimeter.

A slight increase in burned acreage was discovered along the western edge of the fire in the Three Sisters Wilderness, boosting the fire's size to 26,795 acres

 It remains 85 percent contained, with full containment still expected by Oct. 15.

Officials said the fire is burning towards natural barriers of rock. As the mop-up work continues along the fire perimeter and more of the unburned islands of fuel (vegetation) are either burned or left intact, less smoke is visible each day.

About 220 firefighters remained Monday on the blaze, which has cost $17.1 million to fight so far.

Reports from fire fighters and a reconnaissance flight all indicated that the amount of smoke over the fire area was significantly less Saturday than previous days, officials said Sunday. The northern fire perimeter especially, generated far less smoke than expected. But plenty of smoke could be seen Sunday from afar.

Crews have removed most excess equipment and are in the patrol mode monitoring for any hot spots or smoke near the line.  One medium-lift helicopter was to support firefighters Sunday, with possible roles of dropping water, picking up equipment, or reconnaissance missions.

A long range weather forecast suggests less of a chance for precipitation and little chance of a large wind event during the next week or longer.

"As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Columbus Day Storm (October 12, 1962), fire managers are aware that the weather can and does change quickly at this time of year," Sunday's update said. "They are hoping for a reasonable season-ending rain event without the high winds."

Timber-falling crews continue to drop hazardous snags (dead trees) where fire crews are working.  

An area around the fire remains closed to public access during fire suppression activities.  The closure area includes: Forest Road 16 (Three Creek Lake), Forest Road 15 (Pole Creek Road), and a portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCNST).  A reroute is in place for that portion of the PCNST that is closed. 

Refer to the InciWeb site, for further fire and closure information, which includes maps and photos.

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