PRINEVILLE, Ore. - (Update: Fire holds at 200 acres; update on new fire burning along John Day River)
As high temperatures, low humidity and a red flag warning continued Thursday, crews continued with patrolling and mop-up throughout the Grizzly Fire area northwest of Prineville.
The 195-acre fire area was reported at 75 percent containment Wednesday night, with firefighters targeting 95 percent containment by the end of Thursday.
The Central Oregon Fire Management Services Type 3 Incident Management Team was planning to transition command back to the local unit, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District, Thursday evening. Through the weekend, firefighters will continue monitoring and extinguishing any final hot spots, officials said.
The Grizzly Fire was reported burning Monday afternoon near Grizzly Mountain Road, about nine miles northwest of Prineville. The fire was on private lands protected by the ODF, Crook County Fire and Rescue, and the Crooked River National Grassland. The fire is human0caused and under investigation.
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Calmer winds overnight and Tuesday gave crews working the Fourth of July holiday a chance to firm up lines and do mop-up work on the 200-acre Grizzly Fire at Grizzly Mountain northwest of Madras, but other firefighters were called to a new fire burning in a remote area along the John Day River.
In a midday update Tuesday, fire managers said crews on the Grizzly Fire were focusing much of their efforts on the southwest part of the Grizzly Fire, where steep terrain was bringing some challenges.
The fire was mapped at about 200 acres, with interior pockets still burning, officials said.
All evacuation notices have been lifted by Crook County.
The Central Oregon Fire Management Service Type 3 Incident Management Team took command of the fire Tuesday morning, with joint delegation from Crook County Fire and Rescue and the Oregon Department of Forestry.
More resources were arriving Tuesday to help with the effort, including mop-up, and air support was available if needed.
The fires burned on private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, Crook County Fire and Rescue and the Crooked River National Grassland. The fire was human-caused, officials said, but the specific cause was under investigation.
Early Tuesday afternoon, fire managers said crews were called to a new blaze, the Wagner Fire, in a remote area of the John Day River, at river mile 126, 17 miles southwest of Fossil.
A few hours later, officials said the fire's perimeter was held at 256 acres and it was 20 percent contained, The river remained open, and crews will spend the next few days doing mop-up work..
The Grizzly Fire, which broke out Monday afternoon on the west side of Grizzly Mountain, nine miles northwest of Prineville, prompted pre-evacuation notices to about two-dozen homes as some residents left voluntarily and thick smoke streamed into the Prineville area.
One homeowner, Amy Stuart, said she and her husband immediately turned on the sprinklers and watered down their property.
"I was standing there watering the hose all over the north side of our house were the canyon comes up," Stuart said. "There was a wall of flame on the other side of the canyon."
The fire prompted the call-out of a regional structural protection task force and numerous air and ground resources, officials said. Word came from Crook County emergency officials around 9:15 p.m. that all Level 1 pre-evacuation notices had been lifted. And fire managers said at nightfall that no structures burned, thanks to the work of crews from numerous agencies.
COFMS Fire and Aviation Staff Officer Alex Robertson said the light fuel, such as cheatgrass and sagebrush, causes flames to travel fast. Several juniper trees torched, causing a plume of black smoke to rise.
"As long as we have it corralled and the forward movement stopped, then you'll probably see less of that," Robertson said. "You'll see smoke where you can see through it, because it's a lot whispier and lighter and it's not organized."
The fire was reported around 2 p.m. Monday, burning in an area of cheatgrass, juniper and sagebrush about nine miles northwest of Prineville, east of Highway 26, in Crook County, south of the Jefferson County line, said BLM spokeswoman Lisa Clark at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.
Crook County Fire District crews were called to the scene while COIDC initially sent two water-dropping helicopters and two single-engine air tankers to drop retardant, Clark said. A structural protection task force was ordered up a short time later as U.S. Forest Service, BLM and Oregon Department of Forestry crews also were called in to halt the fire's advance.
Crook County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Vicky Ryan said around 6 p.m. that a Level 1 pre-evacuation order (the lowest of three levels, also known as "Get Ready") was in place for Grizzly Mountain Road and the north end of the Ochoco West neighborhood.
"Another area of concern is Windy Ridge Road," Ryan wrote in the news release. "Residents are beginning to self-evacuate at this time. The fire has not reached the top and there is no immediate danger for the radio and broadcasting equipment housed there."
However, Ryan added, "There is heavy smoke in the area of Prineville, and residents are urged to stay indoors if they have difficulty breathing or if they have respiratory conditions that may be exacerbated by the heavy smoke."
By 8 p.m., Clark said the smoke coming from the fire had "really dissipated." However, she said crews would be working on the fire all night, building containment lines and doing mop-up.
By the peak of the fight, more than 75 firefighters from the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry and BLM were working together, joined by Crook County Fire and Rescue and two task forces of structural-protection engine crews from the Central Oregon Interface Task Force across the region.
Also on hand: three helicopters, four single-engine air tankers (SEAT planes) and two "heavy" air tankers."
"Efforts were successful in preventing any homes or buildings from being lost," an 8:30 p.m. news release said.
No roads were closed, though Highway 26 travelers were advised earlier to watch for “quite a bit of fire traffic,” Clark said.
Meanwhile, a house fire was reported in the Culver area, while a new wildfire burned about a quarter-acre near the base of Cabin Butte, six miles southeast of Bend. Incident 418 prompted closure of Forest Service Road 1815, with engines on scene and a helicopter ordered. Crews appeared to be getting a handle on it by about 5:30 p.m.