News

Mili Fire update: 7,000 acres, 600 people evacuated

Another 1,000 under Level 1 evacuation notice

Milli Fire Crossroads area evacuated

SISTERS, Ore. - (Update: Friday night info from fire managers; fire estimated at 7,000 acres)

 

Strong winds pushed the Milli Fire across a containment line Friday afternoon, pushing the now-7,000-acre fire two to three miles east-southeast toward subdivisions on the western outskirts of Sisters and prompting evacuation of about 600 residents, officials said Friday night.

The red cross and salvation army were on hand to help, but one resident of the evacuated Crossroads community is worried about his collection of over 100 tropical fish tanks in his home.

"It's what I do, and it could be gone," David Soares said. "And that's not good, but that's life."

Sisters residents not living in the level three evacuation area were there, too, to help in any way they could.

"These are people that we live around," volunteer Laura Chew said. "This is our community. We live in Sherman so we're close by here. We just care about everybody and what's going on here, and we just thought we'd come out and help in any way at all."

Dave Isbell is moving into a home in crossroads from Sandy, OR, and came for two weeks to do some construction on it before he moves in. Now, because he can't travel up through Madras or Eugene without extreme traffic thanks to the eclipse, he's stuck.

"What else can you do, you know?" he said. "It's just one of those things."

Here's the Friday night update from fire managers:

Location of Origin: 9 miles west of Sisters, OR

Start date: August 11, 2017, 2:42 pm

Size: 7,000 acres (Note: heavy smoke this afternoon is preventing accurate size information)

Percent Contained: 0%

Cause: Lightning

Resources Assigned: Approximately 300 personnel

Vegetation: Mixed conifer forest at higher elevations; lower elevations include ponderosa pine, juniper trees, sagebrush

Fire Update: Firefighters worked to complete a containment line on FS Rd 15 along the eastern edge of the fire, tying the line into work completed by the night shift on the south side of the fire. Strong winds caused the fire to spot across the containment line this afternoon, pushing the fire 2-3 miles east/southeast toward subdivisions on the edge of the city of Sisters. The run triggered several Level 3 (go now) Evacuations, affecting approximately 600 people. An additional 1,000 people remain under a Level 1 (get ready) Evacuation order. All evacuations remain in effect this evening, and are listed below.

The Office of State Fire Marshall continues to provide five task forces of structure engines for protection in the evacuated subdivisions.  These resources were made available when Governor Kate Brown invoked the Conflagration Act.  This action authorizes resources from across the state to respond and assist the greater Sisters community.  Engine crews will remain in the neighborhoods, providing assistance in strengthening defensible space around buildings.

Crews will continue their work tonight in re-establishing primary containment lines and developing alternate lines as backup.  Primary objectives tonight include working to contain the main body of the fire, as well as locate and contain any spot fires out ahead of the fire.

Public Meeting: There will be another public meeting tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m. at Sisters High School.

Evacuations:

Level 3 (Go Now) evacuations are in place for Crossroads Subdivision, residents of Edgington Road, Remuda Road, Wildwing Road, Peterson Burn Road area, and for residents on both sides of 3 Creeks Lake Road from the Brooks Scanlon Mainline Road (FS 4606) south to 3 Creeks/USFS 1514 Rd.

Level 1 - The subdivision of Tollgate

A Red Cross Evacuation Shelter has been opened at Sisters Middle School.  Evacuees are highly encouraged to register with the Red Cross Safe and Well program, which allows loved ones to check on the whereabouts of residents. Sister’s Rodeo Ground is open for large animal evacuations.  For assistance with animal evacuations, please contact the Pet Evacuations Team at 541-610-6628.

Road Closures:

OR 242 remains closed from Sisters west to Hwy 126.  For further information see tripcheck.com

---

Earlier notice:

Due to increased fire activity on the nearly 7,000-acre Milli Fire located west of Sisters, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has issued the following evacuation notices:

A Level 3 (Go Now) Evacuation notice is issued for the following areas:

Crossroads Subdivision, residents in the Edgington Road, Remuda Road, Wildwing Road, Peterson Burn Road area.

JUST ADDED TO LEVEL 3: All residences on both sides of Three Creeks Lake Road, between the Brooks Scanlon Mainline Road (USFS Road 4606), south to the intersection of Three Creeks Lake Road and USFS Road 1514.

Tollgate remains at Level 1 (Get Ready).

Level 3: Means "GO" evacuate now. Leave immediately! Danger to your area is current or imminent, and you should evacuation immediately. If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand that emergency services may not be available to assist you further. DO NOT delay leaving to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. This will be the last notice you receive.

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.

Earlier Friday, officials had said despite the large smoke plume all day, lines were holding on the critical north and east sides of the fire.

But late in the day “they had a spot go over the line just south of Sisters Cow Camp,” said fire spokeswoman Lisa Clark. “It’s made a run to the east at this point.”

Due to the evacuations, ODOT is moving its closure of Oregon Highway 242 (Old McKenzie Pass Highway) on the east side near Sisters to Forest Service Road 15 near Sisters High School.

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/ email: centralorfireinfo@gmail.com

Phone 541-316-7711

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

and

http://coemergencyinfo.blogspot.com

---

Earlier story:

A tall, thick column of smoke surging from the Milli Fire west of Sisters on Friday prompted renewed concern from hundreds of residents under pre-evacuation alert, as the fire grew to nearly 7,000 acres. But Forest Service officials said lines were holding on the critical north and east flanks and the major growth was occurring from burnout work and into the Three Sisters Wilderness.

“Lines are holding on the north and northeast,” spokeswoman Kassidy Kern told NewsChannel 21 early Friday afternoon. Later, officials had a new fire acreage figure, of 6,888 acres.

“People are seeing it active on the south and west sides - there’s where we want it to go.,” she said. “We knew it was going to chew into the wilderness area,” which is why a large area closure was put into place earlier in the week.

She said fire crews’ biggest focus on Friday was making sure the north and east sides hold, and burnout operation was under way along Forest Service roads 15 and 1520 to secure containment lines -- the cause of much of the smoke seen Friday, streaming over a wide area of the High Desert.

The very noticeable smoke column was prompting calls from many area residents worried about what was going on, but Kern said the lines protecting area homes and private timber and property were holding.

About 1,500 residents of 650 homes west of Sisters who are under pre-evacuation orders watched as the 4,500-acre Milli Fire continued to grow, still at zero percent containment.

"I went to the (public) meeting last night and I thought we were safe," a Tollgate resident told NewsChannel 21's Pedro Quintana in a Facebook Live posting. "Now, looking at this, I'm not so sure."

In Friday morning's update, officials said crews were continuing to develop primary containment lines and backup alternate lines, after conducting burnout operations Thursday evening, taking advantage of more favorable conditions.

Here's more of the update:

Today’s activities will focus on the north and east side of the fire that are closest to the threatened communities.  Numerous spot fires are developing and crews are actively identifying them and containing them where possible.  Depending on the terrain, crews are working off existing roadways to develop containment line, or are using heavy equipment like dozers to cut line through previously fire scarred areas.   

Oregon State Fire Marshal Green Team IMT has arrived along with five task forces of engines to assist with structure protection.  Today these units will be focusing on the communities of Crossroads and Edgington.  These resources were made available when Governor Kate Brown invoked the Conflagration Act.  This action authorizes resources from across the state to respond and assist the greater Sisters community.  Engine crews will be surveying the neighborhoods and providing assistance in strengthening defendable space around dwellings.

Smoke monitoring information is available at: oregonsmoke.blogspot.com.  Anyone concerned with the effects of smoke in the region or who has possible health concerns related to smoke can go to this site to see smoke monitoring data and get additional information.

For additional Milli Fire information call: 541-316-7711

Evacuations:  For more information call 541-550-4888.

Level 2 - The subdivisions of Crossroads and Edgington, currently 440 homes

Level 1 - The subdivision of Tollgate, currently 218 homes,

Total: approximately 1500 residents affected.

ODOT officials closed the McKenzie Pass Highway late Thursday due to the Milli Fire near Black Crater, about six miles west of Sisters, which grew to more than 4,500 acres Thursday, prompting Level 2 “Get Ready” pre-evacuation notices earlier in the day for the Crossroads subdivision and nearby areas.

ODOT officials said the closure of the road, also known as state Highway 242, was west of Sisters, at the east gate, with a “soft closure” at state Highway 126 near McKenzie Bridge and a gate closure further east. The agency “is ensuring that campers and hikers are being removed from the area,” its announcement said. The twisting, scenic highway is open from spring to fall, when clear of snow.

In an update Thursday night, officials said firefighters on the Milli Fire continued to be challenged by rugged terrain and overhead hazards while engaging the fire that is approximately 4,565 acres and zero percent contained. 

Here's more from Thursday night's update:

The highest priority for fire officials is to protect homes, private land, and resources to the north and east of the fire area. 

Firefighters were able to make progress in line construction Thursday, supported by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s air tanker and helicopter. Crews completed several firing operations off of Forest Road 15 to tie in with existing line and begin securing indirect containment lines around the fire. 

The fire continued to push up to Millican Peak and Black Crater Creek in the Three Sisters Wilderness and is expected to continue moving south and west. Friday, firefighters will continue to use indirect tactics like completing burnout operations off of existing roads or fire line constructed for the Black Crater Fire in 2006. 

For the safety of firefighters and the public, the Deschutes National Forest has extended the area closure surrounding the fire to include all of the Three Sisters Wilderness area from Highway 242 down to the Park Meadow Trail to the Green Lakes Trail junction to the south, and along the eastern boundary of Forest Road 4606 to the east. 

Highway 242 has now been closed by Oregon Department of Transportation. The Three Sisters Wilderness closure area also includes all trails south of Highway 242 into the Three Sisters Wilderness on the Willamette National Forest.

 The Cold Springs Campground remains open and is accessible from Highway 20 but is under a Level 1 evacuation notice at this time.

Officials with the Forest Service, local fire districts and other from across Oregon and the west spoke at Thursday night's public meeting.

"Interest is high," Deschutes County Emergency Services Manager Nathan Garibay said. "We need for the community to understand the dynamics, and the situation is important. So this is a great opportunity for all these agencies -- the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, the incident management team here, as well as the sheriff's office, to be able to provide the information to answer questions to the public."

Many residents had a simple question -- when do I have to be ready to evacuate? Fire managers refused to speculate, instead stressing the importance of being prepared to leave quickly.

A helpful guideline to the evacuation levels -- one mean get ready, two means get set. Three means go - now.

"If they're not done, not ready to go, then there's that delay time in getting them out," Incident Commander John Pierson said. "So the best thing folks can do is be ready, set, go organized."

Not helping matters at all, the eclipse crowds are expected to bring hundreds of thousands to the region. That influx of people could lengthen response times.

A reason for Central Oregon to be proud amid the threat -- the incident commander, coming in from out of state, said the amount of support and effort from local fire officials is some of the best he's seen.

 Deschutes National Forest, Sisters Ranger District closures include:

Green Lakes Trail #17 is closed from Pole Creek Trail #4072 to Scott Pass Trail #4068, Black Crater Trail #4058, Millican Crater Trail #4066, Scott Pass Trail #4068, North Matthieu Lake Trail #4062, Trout Creek Tie Trail #4067, Millican Crater Trailhead, Scott Pass Trailhead, Whispering Pines Campground, Trout Creek Swamp, Sisters Cow Camp, Chush Falls Trail #4080, Pole Creek Trail #4072, Metolius Windigo Trail #99 from the Highway 242 crossing to the trail junction with the Park Meadow Trail #4075, Whychus Overlook Trail, Whychus Creek Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail closure now begins at Elk Lake and extends beyond Lava Camp Lake at Highway 242. Hikers are encouraged to divert their path to Sisters, Oregon and then get back on the trail at Big Lake. 

An updated Three Sisters area closure map is at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd555242.pdf

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office on Thursday morning issued a Level 2 (Get Set) evacuation notice for the Crossroads subdivision and other nearby areas. Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Conflagration Act, and the American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at Sisters Middle School.

Level Two (Set) – Be “set” to evacuate. All areas south of Hwy 242 (McKenzie Hwy) and west of Pole Creek Ditch (1-1.5 miles west of and parallel to FS Road 15/Three Creeks Rd.). This area includes the Crossroads Subdivision and homes off of Edgington Rd. and Remuda Rd. 

Level 2: Means "BE SET" to evacuate. You must prepare to leave at a moment's notice. This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntary relocate to a shelter or with family and friends outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.

Residents MAY have time to gather necessary items, but doing so is at their own risk. This may be the only notice you receive. Emergency services cannot guarantee that they will be able to notify you if conditions rapidly deteriorate. Area media services will be asked to broadcast periodic updates.

Structure protection assessments are ongoing in the areas under these evacuation notices, officials said.

A Level 1 (BE READY) Pre-Evacuation notice is issued for the following areas:

All areas between Highway 242 and Highway 20 from the Cold Springs Campground to the city of Sisters, which includes the Tollgate Subdivision. This notification does not include the city of Sisters or 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.

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.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Sisters Middle School for residents that have been affected by the Milli Fire. Sheriff's Lt. Bryan Husband said a pet and large-animal evacuation facility has been moved to the Sisters Rodeo grounds.

Gov. Kate Brown at 9:06 a.m. Thursday invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Milli Fire, located west of Sisters in Deschutes County. The fire currently affects approximately 1,200 residents and threatens 434 structures.

Due to the fire burning partially in the fire scar of the 2006 Black Crater Fire, crews on the ground are using extreme caution in areas with dead and standing timber. Local officials issued a Level 2 (Get Set) Evacuation notice for areas south of Hwy 242 (McKenzie Hwy) and west of the Pole Creek Ditch. 

"State agencies are already working around the clock and across the state, and as we get closer to the total solar eclipse, we'll need all resources available to keep communities, visitors, and property safe," said Governor Brown. "I appreciate the dedication and hard work of our state and local fire crews and thank the Oregon National Guard for providing additional support."

In accordance with ORS 476.510-476.610, Brown determined that a threat to life, safety, and property exists due to the fire and the threat exceeds the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment. The Governor's declaration authorizes the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal to mobilize resources to assist local resources battling the fire. 

The Red Cross has opened a shelter for wildfire evacuees in Sisters, Oregon due to the Milli Fire. The shelter is located at Sisters Middle School, 15200 Hwy 242 (McKenzie Highway), Sisters, OR 97759.

Individuals and families affected by the wildfire and in need of shelter assistance are encouraged to simply show up at the shelter for help.

The Red Cross is partnering with the Pet Evacuation Team of Central Oregon to provide accommodations for evacuated pets. A representative from the Pet Evacuation Team will be on-site at the Red Cross shelter to answer questions and assist people coming to the shelter.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/Cascades or find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/RedCrossCascades, Twitter at @RedCrossCasc and find us on Instagram at @RedCrossCascades.
 

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

Maps of the evacuation notice areas can be found at:

https://www.deschutes.org/sheriff/page/emergency-information

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

---

Wednesday night's story:

The Milli Fire that began five days ago on the Three Sisters Wilderness surged toward the east and northeast in 35 mph winds Wednesday, putting up a tall plume visible over a wide area and reported ash fall in Bend, Deschutes River Woods and Sunriver.

Sunriver police issued an advisory to residents Wednesday evening, saying the smoke and ash fall was believed to be from the Milli Fire. 

Three ”heavy” air tankers and a helicopter were dispatched to tackle the blaze.

Winds gusting to 35 mph caused the fire to torch trees and spot to the east and southeast, creating dangerous conditions that forced crews to back off suppression in front of the fire and move to flanking positions, officials said Wednesday night.

Some spot fires crossed east of Forest Road 1018, they said, while the fire also grew on the west flank and moved north toward Black Crater Mountain.

Crews worked Wednesday night to control the spot fires across Forest Road 1018 and also were conducting burnouts to strengthen and hold the containment line being developed along that road.

The Deschutes National Forest and the Type 1 Incident Management Team managing the Milli Fire will host a public meeting Thursday evening to provide information about the fire.

The Milli Fire began 8 miles west of Sisters and approximately 1.5 miles southwest of Black Crater Lake. It has been burning within the Three Sisters Wilderness since last Friday. As of Wednesday, a Type 1 Incident Management Team (Southwest Team 2) took over management of the Milli Fire and the Belknap fire on the Ochoco National Forest. 

The public meeting on the Milli Fire will be held Thursday from 6-7 p.m. at Sisters High School, 1700 McKinney Butte Road, moved from the middle school.

At the meeting, the public will hear from Forest Service and fire management staff about the current status of the fire, strategies for managing the fire and the resources at risk. The public will also learn about how to stay informed about the fire.

For more information, contact the Sisters Ranger District at 541-549-7700. For information about evacuations, contact the Central Oregon Joint Information Center at 541-550-4888.

The Willamette and Deschutes National Forests have implemented a closure order for a large portion of the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Willamette National Forest has closed all trails south of Highway 242 into the Three Sisters Wilderness on the Willamette National Forest with the exception of Proxy Falls, which remains open.   Also closed is the Obsidian Trailhead and Obsidian Limited Entry Area.

The area closure also includes Deschutes National Forest managed lands within the Three Sisters Wilderness that are threatened by fire activity. The northern closure area border includes trails south of Highway 242 and west of Forest Road 1018 and east of the Three Sisters Wilderness Boundary on the Willamette National Forest down to approximately Scott’s Pass Trail, which is also included in the closure. In addition, the closure area contains trails north of Cascade Lakes Highway, west of the South Sisters Climber Trail and includes all of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Elk Lake north to the PCT Trailhead near Lava Camp Lake Campground. For up-to-date information on closures on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and trail reroute options, visit https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/trail-conditions-and-closures/

While the closure includes all trails east of the PCT from Elk Lake to the South Sisters Climber Trail, the South Sisters Climber Trail and Elk Lake Trail remain open. Popular areas like Wickiup Plains and Sisters Mirror Lake are closed.

  • Recreationists should be aware of these additional trail closures: Black Crater Trail #4058, Millican Crater Trail #4066, Scott Pass Trail #4068, North Matthieu Lake Trail #4062, Trout Creek Tie Trail #4067, Millican Crater Trailhead, Scott Pass Trailhead, A portion of the Green Lakes Trail #17 is closed from Pole Creek Trail #4072 to Scott Pass Trail #4068, Moraine Lake Trail from South Sister Climber Trail to Leconte Crater Trail, Leconte Crater Trail, Devils Lake Trail, Mirror Lakes Trail, Elk-Devils Trail, and Horse Lake Trail.
  • Green Lakes Trail #17 from the Cascade Lakes Highway to the Pole Creek Trail #4072 is OPEN.  

There is a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in place over the fire. Information on the TFR can be found at http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_7_1668.html.  This TFR is in place for all aircraft, including unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Whychus Fire – Located about eight miles northeast of Sisters, is currently 2,030 acres and 90% contained. Another day of no fire growth allowed crews to continue mopping up

Belknap Fire – Located in the Mill Creek Wilderness on the Ochoco National Forest, the Belknap Fire is estimated at 125 acres and 30% contained. There are 83 personnel assigned to the fire including three crews, three engines, and three dozers. Crews expect to hold the firelines in place with minimal fire movement.

A trail closure has been put in place by the Ochoco National Forest for trails within the Mill Creek Wilderness.  All hiking trails within Mill Creek Wilderness are temporarily closed to the public including Twin Pillars Trail #832; Wildcat Trail #833; and Belknap Trail #833A.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place over the fire. Information on the TFR can be found at http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_7_9749.html. This TFR is in place for all aircraft, including unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

North Pole Fire – Located eight miles northeast of Shaniko has been fully contained at 5,075 acres on private lands and Bureau of Land Management.

For more information, follow us at http://centralorfireinfo.blogspot.com/ or on Twitter at @CentralORFire

For Central Oregon Fire Information hotline, please call 541-316-7711

Meanwhile, with the solar eclipse less than a week away, the nearly 300 firefighters still working on the Nena Springs Fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation see an end in sight now that it is 90 percent contained. More accurate mapping shows a reduction in acres. The final size of the fire is 39,526 acres.

Cool evenings with high humidity effectively killed most of the remaining fire behavior. A small interior pocket of heat near Simnasho is visible to that community. Firefighters have worked hard to remove any threats this heat may have created. Above the northeastern finger of the fire, a spot of heat outside the main fire body was contained yesterday. Firefighters are cold trailing and ensuring this area does not pose a threat.

Over the next several shifts, local firefighters will be patrolling the fire area looking for hot spots. As the days become warmer, pockets of smoke will become visible, allowing firefighters to find and extinguish the remaining heat. It will remain uncontained for the next few shifts. Firefighters are keeping close eyes on the area to ensure the fire does not undo the hard work firefighters have accomplished.

With the threat to communities extinguished, firefighters will also be focusing their efforts on cutting and piling juniper trees along Hwy 3 to increase visibility along the roadway. This work reduces the amount of standing dead trees that would otherwise add fuel to the next fire if it is not removed.

A transfer of command from both the Northwest Incident Management Team 12 and the Oregon State Fire Marshal Office Incident Management Teams occurred at 6am this morning. A smaller incident management organization made of firefighters from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation will complete the detailed work of identifying burnt fences and guard rails destroyed in the 62 square mile fire. When needs have been assessed, firefighters will begin replacing the infrastructure.

The 2017 Eclipse is an opportunity to see one of the world's greatest natural wonders. Lodging and camp sites are fully booked in Warm Springs and surrounding communities while day use options are limited. Please make sure you are well-prepared for the increase in population.

This preparation starts with understanding risks. We ask the public visiting the Reservation to respect signs and barriers. Bring sun and eye protection. Cell service may not be available in remote areas or could be limited due to heavy demand. Consider turning off your phone to help keep lines open for emergencies.

Due to the expected influx of people beginning to travel across the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, a Fire Prevention Team is in Warm Springs. Team members are talking to the public and youth about ways to prevent wildland fires and increase awareness of activities they can do to keep fire away from the home ignition zone.

This will be the last update on the Nena Springs Fire unless significant activity occurs.


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