News

Wind shift: SW Oregon wildfire smoke streaming into area

Sisters schools delay classes a day due to smoke

SISTERS, Ore. - (Update: Wind shift sends S. Oregon fire smoke into Bend area; Sisters schools delayed a day; evening fire updates)

The Milli Fire west of Sisters continues to grow, topping 11,000 acres by Tuesday -- but thanks to a wind shift fro the southwest much of the smoke blanketing the region later in the day was coming from big fires in southwest Oregon and Northern California -- and hampering firefighting efforts on the Milli Fire. Still-smoky Sisters, meanwhile, has delayed the start of school by a day.

Here's the Tuesday evening update from fire officials:

Fire Information Line: 541-719-8135
Email: millifireinfo@gmail.com
Website: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5517
Blog: http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @CentralORFire
Youtube Channel: https://goo.gl/SRRAr3
Location of Origin: 9 miles west of Sisters, OR
Start date: August 11, 2017, 2:42 pm
Size: Approximately 11,236  acres
Percent Contained: 23%
Cause: Lightning
Resources Assigned: 675 personnel
Milli Fire
August 22, 2017 Evening Update
A public meeting is planned for Tuesday, August 22, 6 p.m. at the Sisters High School, 1700 McKinney Butte Rd, Sisters, Oregon. Information regarding status of the fire, closures, and evacuations will be provided.
 
Heavy smoke filled the air today as a result of multiple fires in the region. Winds from the southwest carried smoke from fires in southwest Oregon and northern California blanketing much of Oregon.
 
Smoke caused significant visibility issues today with fire suppression efforts. Aircraft were grounded as a result of the smoky conditions. Heavy smoke layers moderate fire behavior, so minimum spread is expected. Direct suppression occurred on the northeast and southeast side of the fire near Forest Service Road 16 where firefighters widened dozer and hand lines and, where possible, watered down lines to cool them off and prepare for mop-up in the coming days. Crews on the northwest side of the fire near OR 242 continued fuel reduction work and may conduct a burnout this evening if conditions allow to better secure the area.
 
Air quality outlook through Wednesday, August 23rd is expected to be unhealthy in the Sisters area. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children, should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. Periods of smoke and haze could reach hazardous levels particularly in the early morning, in which case everyone should avoid outdoor activity.
 
Sisters School District first day of school delayed due to poor air quality. School administrators found it necessary to move the start of school back a day in response to the lost staff workday. The first day for 1st through 9th grade will be Tuesday, August 29th, while 10th through 12th graders will start on August 30th. More information at: www.ssd6.org

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, in consultation with its partners on the Milli Fire, are continually evaluating the need for possible changes to evacuation notices.  Every effort is being made to return residents to their homes but this cannot be done until the safety of the public can be assured.

Evacuations:
Level 3 - The subdivisions of Crossroads, Edgington/Remunda, Wildwing, Peterson Burn Road Area, and along both sides of Three Creeks Lake Road (Forest Road 16) about one mile south of Sisters from the junction of the Brooks Scanlon logging road.
Level 1- The subdivision of Tollgate, all areas between OR 242 and HWY 20 and west of Cold Springs Cutoff (FS1018), which includes Black Butte Ranch.

Road Closures:
OR242 east of Cascade Crest to the junction of Forest Road 15. For further information see www.tripcheck.com

Links:
Forest Closures: There is an area closure in place in the Deschutes National Forest, due to fire activity.  https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/deschutes/alerts-notices
Smoke monitoring information is available at: oregonsmoke.blogspot.com

And here's Tuesday evening's update on the area's fires:

Crews have responded to two escaped human-caused fires in the past 24 hours, both of which were contained at less than a quarter acre.

The weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon includes a red flag warning for the southern half of the Deschutes National Forest and the Ochoco National Forest, which includes abundant lightning and gusty winds in excess of 20 mph. Gusty winds are forecast to continue through Thursday. Crews will be available to respond to any new fires that occur.

Air quality conditions are going to continue to be poor for most of central Oregon through Wednesday. This smoke is from fires burning across Oregon and from as far away as northern California. For information from air quality monitoring stations, visit http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/

Milli Fire Smoke caused significant visibility issues today with fire suppression efforts. Aircraft were grounded as a result of the smoky conditions. Heavy smoke moderates fire behavior, so minimum spread is expected. Direct suppression occurred on the northeast and southeast side of the fire near FS 16 where firefighters widened dozer and hand lines. Crews on the northwest side of the fire near OR 242 continued fuel reduction work and may conduct a burnout this evening if conditions allow.

Evacuations:

Level 3 - The subdivisions of Crossroads, Edgington/Remunda, Wildwing, Peterson Burn Road Area, and along both sides of Three Creeks Lake Road (Forest Road 16) about one mile south of Sisters from the junction of the Brooks Scanlon logging road.

Level 1- The subdivision of Tollgate, all areas between OR 242 and HWY 20 and west of Cold Springs Cutoff (FS1018), which includes Black Butte Ranch.

Every effort is being made to return residents to their homes but this cannot be done until the safety of the public can be assured. For more information on the Milli Fire, call the information line at 541-719-8135 or visit Inciweb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5517

North Pole Fire – Located NE of Shaniko, has crossed a containment line and five engines have responded.

Belknap Fire - Located in the Ochoco National Forest, is 100% contained at 125 acres.  There is still a temporary closure in the Mill Creek Wilderness of certain trails, including the Twin Pillars Trail #832; Wildcat Trail #833; and Belknap Trail #833A.

Whychus Fire – Located about eight miles northeast of Sisters, is 100% contained and 2,030 acres.

For more information, follow us at http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com/ or on Twitter at @CentralORFire. For the Central Oregon Fire Information hotline, please call 541-316-7711.

Earlier info:

Black Butte Ranch Police Chief Denney Kelley said late Monday he, the resort CEO,and an executive team met to discuss what a Level 1 alert entails. 

"It's just merely a notification that there's an event that's potentially substantial and there may be a need to evacuate in the future," Kelley said. "So be ready."

Right now, it's just about getting the word out. The ranch is about 1,800 acres of private land, with 120 vacation rentals. One of the challenges is that not everyone who stays there signs up for emergency alerts. 

Kelley said police are doing their best to inform all resort guests in person. 

"The homeowners, we know where they live, but the renters we don't necessarily know," Kelley said. "We are out there, and we have two officers and a sergeant knocking on about 60 doors, touching base and letting them know we are at a Level 1, and what Level 1 means."

The Level 1 notice also affects the ranch stables, and Kelley said it might be time for people to get their horses and move them to a different location. 

Sheriff's Lt. Chad Davis issued the notification news release:

Due to increased fire activity on the Milli Fire west of Sisters, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office on Monday afternoon issued a Level 1 (Get Ready) pre-evacuation notice for all areas between Highway 242 and Highway 20 and west of Cold Springs Cutoff Road (FS Road 1012), which includes Black Butte Ranch.

Level 1: Means "BE READY" for potential evacuation. Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area, monitor emergency services websites and local media outlets for information. This is the time for preparation and precautionary movements of persons with special needs, mobile property and (under certain circumstances) pets and livestock. If conditions worsen, emergency services personnel may contact you via an emergency notification system.

All areas previously under previous evacuation notices remain.

This decision was made after consultation with fire managers. We will continue to work with fire managers to ensure public safety and prevent conflicts between citizens and fire operations. We appreciate the cooperation and understanding of residents.

A public meeting will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Sisters High School, 1700 McKinney Butte Rd, Sisters, Oregon. Provided at the meeting will be information regarding status of the fire, closures, and evacuations.

Follow the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office on Twitter and Facebook @DeschutesSO

Current maps including evacuation areas can be found at:

https://arcg.is/D9OPi

For fire information, you can visit the Central Oregon Fire Information site at:

http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com

Follow Central Oregon Emergency Information Network on Twitter and Facebook @COEmergencyInfo

and

http://coemergencyinfo.blogspot.com

Earlier info:

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office and Deschutes National Forest officials want people to know that it is highly recommended people follow evacuation notices for their safety and the safety of firefighters. Officials also said most people are not trained or equipped for firefighting and are not in direct communication with management which could lead to people being entrapped. 


Furthermore, firefighters could put themselves in danger where they might try to rescue a homeowner in danger. They also encourage people to make their homes defendable before fire season so they feel confident leaving it. 

While it is not encouraged, people can choose to stay. One resident decided to do that. Johnny Klassen lives off Peterson Burn Road near Sisters. 

"I've been evacuated twice before where I came from, once was an earthquake and once was a fire," Klassen said Sunday. "Bad things happened when I left and my grandson and I decided to stay. We are not going to die here, but there are things we could to do until it got time to hit the road."

The main focus for firefighters continues to be the protection of any structures near the fire lines. A task force operator, Eric Smythe with Columbia River Fire and Rescue, said the homes under Level 3 evacuation notice are currently safe. 

"The homes we have been tasked with defending are doing good, so we are protecting them," Smythe said. "The fire is still a ways away, so we have been doing prep on them and removing those combustibles from around them and doing patrols."

One emergency medical responder, Jeramy Lehner, said it's really about clearing any burnable materials from around the homes.

"So, we spend the day clearing pine needles out of the gutters and that's one of the trouble spots when you have a fire," Lehner said. "Most of the houses in this area are great, and we didn't have to do much."


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