Evacuation levels lowered on Nena Springs Fire

Fire grows to 66,000 acres, 40 percent contained

Nena Springs fire growing

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - Update: Kah-Nee-Ta at Level 1 pre-evacuation notice; other areas at Level 2)

Warm Springs Law Enforcement officers on Saturday again reduced the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort evacuation notice to a Level 1 (Get Ready), two days after the now-66,000-acre fire jumped a containment line and raced toward populated areas.

Elsewhere, the Charley Canyon, Webster Flat Road, South Junction, Culpus Bridge and Wolf Point subdivisions also were reduced, to a Level 2 (Get Set) evacuation notice.

Officials said in Saturday morning's update that all roads except Webster Flat are open. If traveling, they said, please be aware of fire traffic and drive safely.

Lighter wind Saturday is expected to slow fire growth, though high temperatures are returning. The warmer weather will create drier conditions.

In the last two days, the fire has gained just over 19,000 acres, bringing the fire's total to 66,003 acres.

With the size growth, firefighters are now working to keep the fire west of Deschutes River; south of Highway 216; east of Highway 26 and north of BIA Road 3. They are also working to keep it out of Beaver Creek Canyon.

Their priority is to keep the public and firefighter safe during these intense periods of fire growth while also protecting structures, timber, natural resources and visual resources.

Where possible, firefighters will take advantage of opportunities to use fire to fight the fire in order to create or strengthen containment lines. Structural engines will be supporting these efforts, and ensuring the fire does not threaten structures again.

Overnight, firefighters constructed a contingency dozer line along the northern flank of the fire, where the new fire growth took place. Other firefighters worked containment lines where new fire growth took place to extinguish heat 50-100 feet inside the burned area. There was no new growth Friday night, officials said.

A large air tanker was used Friday evening to strategically place a line of retardant along a ridgeline where the fire crossed the Warm Springs River. The fire ran less than a half mile before this action effectively stopped the run, officials said.

Two Bureau of Land Management engines also successfully extinguished a fire that had grown a 1/4 acre across the Deschutes River. They were in place Saturday, working to prevent any fires from establishing east of the river.

The Deschutes River is open to rafters; however, Bureau of Land Management river rangers will stop rafters if a helicopter comes in to dip from the river. Smoke from the Nena Springs Fire may become visible over the river.

Evacuation Notices: Charley Canyon, Webster Flat Road, South Junction, Culpus Bridge, and Wolf Point Subdivision are at a Level 2 Evacuation Notice. The Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa is at a Level 1 evacuation notice.

Evacuation Center: The Red Cross established an evacuation center at the Warm Springs Community
Center for residents that have been evacuated.

Road Closures: Webster Flat Road is closed to all traffic.


Earlier info:

The Nena Springs Fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation grew 12,000 acres in Thursday’s strong winds and kept growing fast Friday, jumping the Deschutes River late in the day.

Officials said the fire jumped the river at South Junction, about 3 miles north of Trout Creek, around 5:30 p.m.

The Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center said BLM fire crews contained the fire along the Lower Deschutes that began when an ember spotted across the river. They said the river was open, with smoky conditions. 

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said the fire across the river prompted a Level 2 (Get Set) evacuation notice for the Trout Creek Campground, later rescinded. The campground remains open.

Just as it neared full containment, an ember sent the fire across containment lines Thursday, racing across more than 12,000 acres and prompting new evacuation orders for subdivisions and for a time threatening the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, officials said.

Around 3:20 p.m. Thursday, an ember from the Nena Springs Fire blew out of containment lines near Kishwalk. Driven by high winds, the fire began running in grass and brush. Two helicopters, hand crews and at least 10 engines responded, in addition to 150 firefighters that were already assigned to the fire.

Winds pushed the fire over Indian Head Canyon and through Charley Canyon, then continued move a mile east past the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort. As was planned earlier in the week, in the event an evacuation notice was issued, visitors sheltered in place.

“We saw the flames coming, said Warm Springs resident All Bagely. "I sat here in my chair and watched it come over the mountain up and over up the hills."

Firefighters used Route 8 to burn from the road. That successfully removed grass from around the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and forced the fire to stay above and away from the area. While the resort is still at a Level 3 evacuation, the immediate threat to it is gone, officials said.

Around 10 p.m. Thursday, the fire jumped Hwy. 3 at Fish Hatchery Grade. Firefighters' priority was to keep the fire from crossing the Warm Springs River and to prevent it from burning structures. As of midnight Thursday, these objectives had been met.

“Working with local resources we were able to keep that fire away from the resort and away from the homes there, as well as the fish hatchery,” said Rich Tyler, the divisional supervisor with the OSFM Incident Management Team. 

The Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal Red Team, commanded by Ian Yocum, was mobilized late Thursday night. Two task forces of engines from Marion and Multnomah counties began working with the existing organization around midnight. Yamhill and Washington counties' engines and personnel arrived Friday morning. These task forces bring with them a total of 79 firefighters, 19 engines and four water tenders to assist with protecting structures and building upon the work firefighters have already completed.

“We’re going to do everything we can to hold it in place and primarily protect the homes and structures in the surrounding areas,” Tyler said.

The fire was 90 percent contained early Thursday; now, it's only 40 percent contained, officials said.

More information will be posted on the fire's InciWeb page:

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