Hundreds pack Sisters HS for Milli Fire update

Residents voice concerns about homes, smoke impact

Residents voice questions at fire...

SISTERS, Ore. - Hundreds of people packed the Sisters High School Tuesday evening for an update on the Milli Fire that has grown to more than 11,000 acres and left hundreds of worried evacuees wondering when they'll be able to return home. 

"We wanted to know where it's going to move, plus, this is a community and we are interested to know how friends and neighbors are doing and what areas were actually evacuated," said Sisters resident Gretchen Matos. "It's frightening."

People had questions about fire resources, how upcoming weather could affect the fire, burnout operations and the thick, hazardous smoke levels. 

"It's a tight-knit community, so my biggest concern is, are our friends taken care of and do they need help?" d Matos said. 

Officials said no resources will be taken from this fire, a meteorologist is constantly analyzing weather behavior, and Deschutes County sheriff's deputies are willing to escort evacuees to their homes for critical needs.

However, a big topic of questions concerned the upcoming school year and the safety of students in the heavy smoke, at a level deemed hazardous to breathe.

Sisters School Superintendent Curt Scholl said it's all about making sure the environment is safe for students and staff. 

"Those things we feel confident in, but we never know with the degree of the weather and the number of particulates," said Scholl. "We can only do so much in filtering, and then we are doing some air quality testing internally as well."

Scholl said he's working with officials to put a safety plan in place. 

According to officials, firefighters will begin a burnout operation near the FS 1018 Road and Highway 242 to help them gain more control. Southwest Area Incident Management Team Operations Section Chief Rick Miller said the reason is two-fold. 

"We can get dozers and engines in there to help us, as opposed to further up the hill, where that isn't prevalent," Miller said. 

Secondly, the fuel type is mainly Ponderosa pine, and it tends to spot less and burn more predictably. Miller said the burnout near the 1018 Road will increase the size of the fire, putting the fire line closer to Crossroads, but also will mean firefighters are better able to catch the fire. 

"Given the predictions and predictability of fire, it would burn that area anyway," Miller said. "We are just trying to do it before the fire itself burns it."

Miller also said a wind out of the west would be the most problematic, because of the homes to the east and heavy smoke that means air resources cannot fly. 

Officials said containment on the north side of the fire is looking good and crews continued fuel reduction work on the northwest side. 

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