Fire near Santiam Pass at 50 acres; travel still limited

Pilot car guiding motorists past Potato Hill Fire

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Potato Hill Fire at 50 acres; pilot car still guiding Santiam Pass traffic)

A wildfire that broke out Tuesday afternoon in brush and timber south of Highway 20 has burned about 50 acres and continued to restrict travel over Santiam Pass on Wednesday, officials said.

The Potato Hill Fire was burning west of Forest Service Road 2690, according to Willamette National Forest officials.

Initial-attack firefighters on the ground, supported by helicopters dropping water, took direct and indirect suppression actions and continue to evaluate the potential values at risk, forest officials said. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The fire closed the highway near milepost 76 west of Santiam Pass and prompted a second closure near Suttle Lake for hours Tuesday afternoon, hours after three new brushfires erupted around the Newberry National Volcanic Monument south of Bend, one prompting evacuations of Lava River Cave and the Lava Lands Visitor Center, authorities said.

The fire, reported around 3 p.m., began on the south side of the highway but jumped the highway and was burning near Lost Lake.

The fire was burning in the area of the 2003 B&B Complex Fire, the 90,000-acre blaze that was the largest in Deschutes National Forest history.

The highway reopened by 9 p.m. to one lane of traffic, with a pilot car controlled by flaggers in the westbound lane, between milepost 75 and 77.

ODOT reported overnight that one lane was open of the highway between mileposts 75 and 88, with traffic in both directions flagged with a pilot car. Travelers should expect delays, they said.

In addition, Highway 97 was closed at the Oregon-California border late Tuesday afternoon due to a wildfire burning about two miles south of the border. ODOT reported it was reopened later in the evening.

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For more information, follow or on Twitter at @CentralORFire. For the Central Oregon Fire Information hotline, call 541-316-7711.

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