The 108-acre Browns Creek Fire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of campers near Wickiup Reservoir Sunday afternoon is now 90 percent contained, and all but one campground has reopened, authorities said Tuesday as evacuated campers were allowed in to retrieve their belongings.
Mop-up work is underway on the blaze, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.
The last closures, of Forest Road 42 and Sheep Bridge Campground, will reopen at 9 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
Forest Road 42 had remained closed into the area, though the Sunday campsite evacuees were escorted in Tuesday morning to get the belongings they left behind.
Meanwhile, COIDC officials said 10 smokejumpers, two rapellers and a 20-person hand crew were sent to battle four new fires that broke out at the crest of the Cascades close to Windigo Butte, on the Deschutes National Forest south of Crescent Lake, near the boundary with the Umpqua Natonal Forest.
The hand crew was hiking into the rugged, remote area, said fire information spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean.
At midday Monday, officials said the Browns Creek Fire's size was holding at the 108-acre figure announced earlier in the day, but it was keeping crews busy.
"While the winds are calm and the temperatures are cooler, we'll be focusing on putting water on the fire as much as we can," Sommer Moore, fire information officer, said Monday.
"We've ordered up a bunch of water pumps, and we're putting in hose lay around the whole fire. So just cooling off those hot spots so it doesn't pick back up again."
The nearby Wickiup Reservoir and Browns Creek are helping to contain the fire, as they act as natural barriers.
"Having the water here definitely helped, because the fire came straight towards it," Moore said.
There was concern Sunday that fire could jump the reservoir by way of embers.
"As the fire was progressing this way. It was pretty high intensity," said Moore. "So there's always a chance that embers could come over this water body and land on the other side here and start what we call spot fires on this side."
So far, no spot fires have been reported, but firefighters continue to patrol the opposite shore for signs of smoke.
Forest Road 4280 remained closed, but Road 4260 had reopened, they said, adding that the South Twin camping area reopened at 1 p.m.
A portion of Road 42 also reopened at midday Monday, from Highway 97 to Forest Road 4262, which is now opened to the Twin Lakes area. But dispersed campsites were still closed.
Gull Point Campground and all areas east of Forest Road 4260 opened by 2 p.m., Monday, officials said.
The cause of the fire, which was fully surrounded by fire lines by nightfall Sunday, remains under investigation, they said.
The wind-fanned fire stayed very active late Sunday afternoon, surging toward the east and threatening the popular North and South Twin Lake areas -- but then, to the surprise and relief of many, it quieted down, allowing fire crews to gain the upper hand.
By Sunday evening, bulldozers had carved a line around 90 percent of the fire and hand lines were being built around the other 10 percent, said fire information officer Jean Nelson-Dean at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.
The fire's size was figured Monday morning at 108 acres. Nelson-Dean said campground evacuations remained in place, for the time being, and Forest Road 42 was closed Sunday for helicopters to safely pull and drop buckets of water on the fire area.
A local Type 3 management team took command of the fire operation Monday as federal, state and contract crews worked to keep it in check and within the lines.
Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies evacuated several campgrounds after the fire broke out around 1 p.m. at the north end of Wickiup Reservoir, near Forest Road 4280, about 12 miles west of La Pine.
Campers at Sheep Bridge campground, areas adjacent to Forest Road 4280 (Forest spur roads 100 and 700), Gull Point Campground and South Twin Lakes were evacuated by late afternoon, with the North Twin Lake area being put on notice for evacuation if the fire moved closer.
Evacuees told all-too-familiar tales of a rushed departure and some frantic times.
"Yeah, they were yelling, 'Evacuate! Evacuate! We need you out of here!'" Joan Marston recalled. "But by the time we were evacuated, you had flames, you could see all the trees -- I have massive pictures, where -- I mean, it's gone"
"My parents, my brothers and my son-in-law are all still down there -- right beside the fire," said Debbie Cleavenger.
The evacuations will stay in place overnight, for safety reasons, or until the sheriff's office deems it safe to return, Nelson-Dean said.
Forest Road 42, off of the Cascade Lakes Highway, was closed for fire traffic and safety concerns.
Nelson-Dean NewsChannel 21 earlier Sunday afternoon the fire was 30 to 40 acres in size, and deputies said it was growing fast. No new size estimate was available yet Sunday evening.