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Warm Springs at 34,000 acres; gov deploys more task forces

Reported at 4 pct. contained; 3 areas evacuated

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - (Update: Fire at 34,000 acres, 4 pct. contained; governor deploys more resources)

The Nena Springs Fire continued to expand through brush and timber on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation on Friday, growing to 34,000 acres, as crews had it 4 percent contained.

The governor directed the state fire marshal to provide assistance to protect more than 100 homes threatened by flames.

The Northwest Incident Management Team 12 assumed command of the firefighting effort Friday, with 240 firefighters on hand and more resources called in, officials said.

In their first fire update, at the fire's new InciWeb page, the new incident management team said the fire was human-caused.

Along with one home that burned earlier in the battle, officials said several historic, unoccupied structures and outbuildings have been lost.

The Schoolie Flats, Simnasho and S-300 subdivisions remained under a Level 3 evacuation notice, asked to leave the area immediately. The Fish Hatchery Grade area was under a Level 2 notice, told to be set to evacuate when notified.

The Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, the Charlie Canyon subdivision and Wolf Point are not directly affected by the fire, officials said, but are under a Level 1 evacuation notice (Get Ready) to make them aware there is a fire in the area and to be aware of current and possible future conditions si they can be ready to leave if necessary.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that the state fire marshal was mobilizing four firefighting task forces to the Nena Springs Fire, under the existing agreement between the state and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"The Warm Springs fire quickly spread, has already caused property damage, and continues to pose a threat to the local community," said Governor Brown. "I ask residents to use caution and heed the guidance of local authorities, and to support efforts to contain the fire, I've directed the State Fire Marshal to make state resources available to the Warm Springs community." 

The OSFM Blue Incident Management Team, led by Incident Commander Scott Magers, has been activated, along with four firefighting task forces that will be deployed. Two task forces will arrive Friday evening for night operations and another two will arrive in time for Saturday daytime operations, the governor's office said. 

Firefighters battling the blaze lost two structures to the blaze, including a home, officials said Thursday morning.

"We lost one home that people lived in and one historical structure on the Schoolie Flats subdivision,": said acting fire Public Information Officer Brad Donahue.

Residents of about 70 homes in the Simnasho, S-300 and Schoolie Flats areas remained under a Level 2 pre-evacuation notice Thursday morning, meaning to be ready to leave at a moment's notice should the fire move closer, Donahue said.

More crews were arriving to help fight the fire Thursday -- but they were "trickling in," he said, due to the demand for firefighters on numerous blazes around the state and region.

"Everybody is screaming for crews," Donahue said.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury on the first day of the fire on Tuesday, but no injuries were reported Wednesday, as structural task force protection crews stopped flames from reaching other homes, Donahue said.

Donahue said it began on private land off the reservation, protected by a fire district, then moved through 40 acres of Oregon Department of Forestry land before reaching the reservation.

The winds were not high, 5-7 mph on Wednesday, but with triple-digit heat, "with this dry grass, it took the fire and ran with it," Donahue said.

Similar challenging conditions were encountered Thursday -- along with a threat of thunderstorms over the region.

The fire earlier prompted Level 3 (GO!) evacuation notices from Highway 3 in Simnasho to the S-300 Road, officials said. A Level 2 (Get Ready) evacuation alert also was issued for the Schoolie Flats subdivision.

The American Red Cross set up an evacuation center at the Warm Springs Community Center.

The fire was putting out heavy smoke and residents with respiratory issues were urged to relocate from those areas if possible.

Tribal Highway 3 from Simnasho to Walter's Corner was closed to all traffic, as was Highway 9 from Highway 26 to Simnasho. Motorists were warned to watch for emergency vehicles and drive with caution in smoky areas.

A Type 2 incident management team was scheduled to take over fire operations Thursday at noon.

The new wildfire's fast advance prompted call-up of a regional structure-protection task force for about three-dozen homes threatened in three subdivisions.

Residents of 35 to 40 homes in the Simnasho, S-300 and Schoolie Flats residents were given first a Level 1 (Get Ready) and later a Level 2 (Get Set to leave at a moment's notice) evacuation order, Donahue said earlier in the evening.

The fire was mapped at only 3,700 acres earlier Wednesday.

t's still rolling pretty good," Donahue said as air tankers dropped load after load of retardant on the flames.

Resources on the fire late Wednesday included three large air tankers and two single-engine air tankers (SEAT planes), the spokesman said.

Elsewhere, the 700-acre Rebel Fire in the McKenzie River Ranger District, which broke out last Friday, has spread north and east into the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, officials said Wednesday.

More on Oregon's large fires at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/38/


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