BEND, Ore. - (Update: Nash Fire now at 3,500 acres; Monday morning update)
It may just be one, worst-case scenario of many that could occur on the most-watched Central Oregon wildfire in recent days. But it's still a sobering, worrisome read from managers working on the 3,500-acre Nash Fire that began a few weeks ago on the southwest slope of the South Sister in the Willamette National Forest.
Listed under "Projected Incident Activity,” the InciWeb page reads:
"48 hours: The fire may consume much of the basin above Nash Lake, south to Top Lake and east to the Sisters Mirror Lake area.
"72 hours: Crossing the Pacific Crest downslope on the west wind towards the Cascade Lakes Highway and Elk Lake area.
"Anticipated after 72 hours: If not checked at the highway, it may move into the Elk Lake Resort complex, Lava Lake area, Mt Bachelor Roadless Area, and Mt Bachelor Ski Area."
While the lightning-sparked Nash Fire -- still at zero containment -- and the nearly 6,700-acre Separation Fire have merged at one spot, they are still being managed separately, and the ironic border is the Separation Creek drainage, said Forest Service spokeswoman Kassidy Kern at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Redmond.
“Part of that fire is moving northwest, so we don’t want to take on the whole fire as combined – that would stretch things even thinner,” Kern said Sunday.
So the Willamette National Forest (which is dealing with more than a dozen wildfires) will manage the northwest piece and the Deschutes National Forest -- actually, the incident management team on the 22,527-acre Milli Fire southwest of Sisters -- will oversee efforts on the south and east side, where the good news is that the fire is only moving at about a half-mile or less a day toward the Cascade Lakes Highway and popular recreation spots, still four or more miles away.
“The good thing going on is the inversion layer is tamping things down a bit. We don’t have crazy winds that would be pushing it,” Kern said.
“Smoke is the challenge for the firefighters too – they can’t see it very well because of the smoke,” she said. “You’re not going to put firefighters in the blind where they can’t see things.”
A Skycrane helicopter assigned to the Milli Fire is also dropping water on the Nash Fire’s hot spots.
Officials said the Nash and Separation fires joined Friday in a small, steep, deep and narrow area crossing Separation Creek.
The Nash Fire put up a visible column when skies cleared Sunday morning and burned actively, moving slightly to the northwest.. The smoke from that and other fires, along with little wind, were acting as a cap, reducing fire behavior to some degree.
"When the fire does have clean air, it has the potential to move in any direction quickly," officials said in their daily update.
"After evaluating values at risk, the decision has made to engage the fire with direct, indirect and aerial, full suppression tactics where feasible. Fire managers are making plans for when it moves out of the wilderness. Movement to the southeast out of the wilderness through vegetative timber stringers would be toward the Elk Lake area.
A structure protection group continues triage of infrastructures in the Elk Lake area. including the resort, 40-plus recreation homes and the historic Forest Service Elk Lake Guard Station. As resources become available, fuels along roads near the fire will be reduced., officials said.
Here's the Monday morning update on the Nash Fire:
ire Information Line: 541-719-8135
Size: 3,500 acres
Percent Contained: 0%
Travel Information: tripcheck.com or call 511
You Tube Channel: https://goo.gl/SRRAr3 (Milli and Nash Fire updates)
Central Oregon is experiencing extreme dry conditions, residents and visitors need to be extremely cautious when outdoors. Campfires are banned on both private and public lands, violators will be ticketed.
The Nash Fire is under a fire Red Flag Warning for high temperatures, strong winds, very low relative humidity, and unstable atmospheric conditions. Any combination of these factors will cause any ignition source on the dry fuels to start a wildfire. Forest visitors are reminded to “know before you go”.
Fire Information: The fire is a result of a lightning storm in early August which generated numerous fires throughout the Cascades Range in Oregon and Washington. The Nash Fire is in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area along the crest of the Cascades on the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. Smokejumpers initially worked to suppress the fire however due to safety concerns of very active fire behavior and steep terrain, the smokejumpers were removed. Infra-red detection flights are conducted over the fire, when possible, to estimate and monitor perimeter growth. Continual heavy smoke has restricted any safe access or aerial observations.
Air Quality: Air quality forecasted for the Bend and Sisters areas are in the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy range. People sensitive to poor air quality should take the necessary precaution to avoid exposure while those needing to work outdoors should limit heavy outdoor exertion. Information is available at: http://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com and https://airnow.gov
Incident Management: Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 8, Doug Johnson, Incident Commander is managing and supporting the fire fighters of the Nash Fire. The incident command post (ICP) is located at the Sisters Rodeo Grounds in Sisters, Oregon.
Update Fire: Firefighters and equipment began fuels reduction for fire protection around the 40 plus recreation residences and historic Elk Lake Guard Station at Elk Lake yesterday. Removing low limbs, clearing brush, removing dense fuels and forest litter away from structures, as well as putting in pumps and hose where feasible. The structure protection group will continue triage of infrastructure in the Elk Lake area. Prep work has also begun from Elk Lake North along the Cascade Lakes Highway clearing brush and reducing fuels to prepare for burn out operations if needed to hold the fire on the west side of the road.
The Nash and nearby Separation Fires continue to burn actively in steep, deep and narrow country within the Three Sisters Wilderness. When the fires are not shaded by smoke they have the potential to move in any direction quickly. After evaluating values at risk, the decision has made to engage the fire with direct, indirect and aerial, full suppression tactics where feasible. Fire managers are making plans for when it moves out of the Wilderness. Movement to the southeast out of the Wilderness through vegetative timber stringers would be toward the Elk Lake area.
Evacuations: The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with fire managers, has placed a Level 2 (Set) evacuation notice for the areas surrounding the Elk Lake and Hosmer Lake including Elk Lake Resort, Elk Lake Guard Station, Elk Lake Campground(CG), Point CG, Mallard CG, Sunset View Day Use area, Beach Day Use Area, and Quinn Meadow’s Horse Camp and a Level 1 (Ready) evacuation notice for the areas surrounding Lava Lake and Little Lava Lake including Lava Lake Resort, Lava Lake CG, and Little Lava Lake CG. Current maps including the evacuation areas can be found at https://arcg.is/D9OPi
Trail closures are in place: Closed trails include: Wickiup Plains, South Sister/Devil’s Lake, Green Lakes, Sisters Mirror Lake, Elk Lake, and PCT from Irish and Taylor Lake north to Olallie Lake. PCT Trail Angels will be at Cultus Lake to help hikers. Information can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/deschutes/alerts-notices
Kern said the smoke was too heavy Sunday afternoon for an aerial attack on the Nash Fire, but they will when conditions allow.
And what of that threat of a fire crossing the Cascades crest and even reaching Mt. Bachelor?
“The values at risk along the Cascade Lakes Highway are phenomenal,” Kern said. “If we can hold it for the next four days or so, we are anticipating getting cooler weather and potentially rain.”
“It went not quite a half-mile yesterday (Saturday) – that is a slow walk,” Kern said. “Once it comes out of the wilderness, we can do a direct (attack) and dozer line. If it’s marching at that pace, we’re going to get a hold of it. It depends on the weather condition, terrain and resources.”
But that InciWeb description of a fire reaching crucial, popular recreation areas (still under a Level 2 pre-evacuation alert) is possible.
“Another scenario is that we catch it, and we did point protection for no reason,” Kern said. “Another potential is this slow walk, with minimal impacts. There are many different scenarios here. And this is the most-watched fire in Central Oregon. Few fires have more values at risk than Nash.”
The Milli Fire, meanwhile, has now moved to 50 percent containment, though it's still burning more fuel within the perimeter, especially on the east side of the fire. It's also moving through trees on the west flank and backing unchecked into an area of little fuel on the southwest side, moving further into the wilderness.
Officials on Sunday lowered Level 2 evacuation alert to Level 1 pre-evacuation notice for the Edgington and Crossroads subdivisions, which has been in place for several days.Tthe Level 1 pre-evacuation notice is expected to continue for areas including the Tollgate subdivision and Black Butte Ranch.
Meanwhile, the McKay Fire, east of Highway 97 near McKay Butte, held at 1,221 acres and was 70 percent contained by Sunday, officials said. All area road restrictions for the fire have been lifted, but crews will continue to mop up and monitor the fire area until full containment is reached.
West of Santiam Pass, the roughly 200-acre Potato Hill Fire was in good enough shape that ODOT has dropped the pilot cars and limited travel in the area, though it could return if things worsen.
The Horse Creek Complex of fires also is continuing to affect Labor Day weekend campers and others. The Lane County Sheriff's Office announced a Level 1 (Be Ready) pre-evacuation notice Saturday for the Highway 126 corridor from Milepost 45 on the McKenzie Highway to milepost 16 at the Clear Lake cutoff. That includes the communities of Rainbow, McKenzie Bridge and Belknap Springs. The quickest route to safety is west of (Highway) 126 toward Springfield, they said.
The latest on all the major fires burning around Oregon can be found at: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/38/