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Desolation Fire lines hold; burnout work underway

Fire mapped at 1,568 acres

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - (Update: Thursday morning update; lines hold, new size)

The Desolation Fire stayed within planned containment lines through Wednesday evening’s gusty winds as firefighters worked through the day and into the night to keep the fire north of Highway 26 and protect nearby homes, officials said..

An overnight infrared flight mapped the fire at 1,568 acres and showed that most of Wednesday’s fire growth occurred to the north and still within Mill Creek Wilderness. The fire is still zero percent contained.

A Level 2 evacuation notice remains in effect for residents in the Marks Creek area. The Level 2 evacuation urges residents to stay alert and be prepared to leave if the need arises.

About 195 firefighters are assigned to the fire and will continue working Thursday on completing burnout operations along Forest Road 200, between the fire and private homes along Highway 26, with plans to continue northeast along Forest Roads 250 and 300 toward Cortez Creek.

Crews with logging equipment will also continue working along Forest Road 27 to create a fuel break in the event the fire should move to the north. A structure protection group is working to remove fuels directly surrounding private homes.

Forecasts call for cloudy, cooler conditions with a chance of rain, which should help moderate fire behavior. Smoky conditions will continue Thursday in the fire vicinity and along Highway 26 in the Ochoco Divide area due to fire suppression burnout operations and the wildfire. Motorists should use caution when traveling through the area.

Residents who suffer from respiratory or heart conditions should monitor air quality and stay indoors or consider travelling to town until the air clears.

There will be a community information meeting Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Eastside Church, 3174 NE Third Street, in Prineville to share updates about the fire. 

A temporary closure order remains in effect for all of Mill Creek Wilderness and Forest Service land north of the wilderness up to and including Forest Roads 27, 2730 and 2745.

For more information, call (541) 316-7711 or follow us online at http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com/ or on Twitter at @CentralORFire.

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Earlier story:

Strong wind gusts out of the northwest fanned the now-2,000-acre Desolation Fire late Tuesday afternoon, pushing the fire south out of the Mill Creek Wilderness Area and toward private structures along Highway 26, prompting Level 2 pre-evacuation alerts for about 27 homes late in the day.

The Level 2 "Be Set" notice remained in place in the Marks Creek area on Wednesday, urging residents to stay alert and be prepared to leave quickly if the need arises. Fire camp was set up at the Ochoco Christian Camp and Conference Center, the former Mt. Bachelor Academy.

Brandon Boyce lives near the wildfire and woke up Wednesday to a notice on his door, telling him to be ready to leave fast, in case the fire moved toward his home. 

"You always hope it doesn't come, but you've just got to be prepared for when it does," he said.  

For Boyce, it's now a waiting game as the fire inches closer 

"You never know," he said. "It's Mother Nature at its best. She's going to do what she wants to do."

The Desolation Fire, a lightning start first reported Saturday in the Mill Creek Wilderness on the Ochoco National Forest, was estimated Wednesday at about 1,500 acres, located about 20 miles northeast of Prineville.

A community information meeting will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Eastside Church in Prineville to share information about the fire.

Firefighters worked through the night putting in several miles of containment line between Highway 26 and the fire, using bulldozers and backburns, said Forest Service spokesman Patrick Lair.

Work continued Wednesday to strengthen and expand existing containment lines on the south, east and north sides of the wilderness.

A Type 3 Central Oregon incident management team was taking command of the fire Wednesday, focusing on a confine and contain strategy for the fire and keeping the fire north of the highway.

Aerial firefighting also was expected to continue Wednesday. Fire managers have been using water and retardant drops to slow the fire’s progress on actively burning flanks.

A structure protection group also began working to secure private residences in the area.

Smoky conditions were expected in the Ochoco Divide area from both the wildfire and burnout operations.

ODOT workers were on Highway 26 to help keep traffic moving safely through the area. 

Smoky conditions can be difficult for anyone who suffers from a respiratory or heart condition. Be mindful of yourself or others who may have challenges in these conditions. Be aware of anyone who is vulnerable to the changing weather and air conditions as well.

The Ochoco National Forest also expanded a temporary road, trail and area closure for the Desolation Fire to promote public health and safety while the fire is actively burning and firefighters are engaged in a suppression effort.

The order temporarily prohibits the public from entering Mill Creek Wilderness and Forest Service land north of the wilderness, up to and including Forest Service Roads 27/2730/2745 to the north and northeast of the fire. 

"The forest appreciates public tolerance during the suppression efforts and will reopen the area to the public as soon as it’s deemed safe to do so," Lair said.

Workers have been making contacts with hunting camps and other visitors through the night to give notice of the planned closure.

For information updates, check InciWeb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5610/, or call (541) 316-7711.


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