15,200-acre wildfire near John Day River declared contained

But officials advise heat, lightning pose threats

CLARNO, Ore. - (Update: Fire near Clarno fully contained)

The more than 15,000-acre Rhoades Canyon Fire east of Clarno and the John Day River was declared fully contained Saturday evening, officials said.

Officials said most crews and other firefighting resources were being released from the fire Saturday evening.

Local county and rural fire protection firefighting resources and BLM firefighters and engines will continue to mop-up and patrol the fire over the next several days.

The final size of the fire, which burned primarily in brush and grass, is estimated at 15,200 acres. At the height of the fire, almost 100 personnel were assigned to the fire, with crews, engines and aerial resources.

With ongoing heat over the weekend, fire managers warned that fuels are drying rapidly and the public needs to be taking extra precautions with campfires and avoid driving and parking cars on dry grasses.

Lightning is expected following the weekend, which will likely result in several natural fire starts and will keep firefighters busy.

Burnout operations within the lines caused most of the growth of the blaze late in the week.

Follow further updates on area fires at the Central Oregon Fire Information blog:

Earlier information:

Increasing temperatures and wind predicted for the next several days could challenge fire suppression efforts. Crews will not only focus on mopping up any hot spots near the fire's perimeter, but will also be watching for spot fires from any flare ups along the line.

ODOT continues to provide a pilot car to lead vehicles past the portion of the fire burning along Highway 218 east of the John Day River. At this time, delays are expected to be less than 20 minutes. The John Day River and nearby Clarno boat launch remain open. Helicopters are still using the river for dipping buckets; boaters should use caution when passing through the area.

Fire conditions are high throughout much of Central Oregon, with conditions on the John Day and Lower Deschutes Rivers approaching extreme. Know before you go - find out if fire restrictions are in place if you plan to head out camping and have a backup plan like a white gas or propane cook stove. Make sure all campfires are dead out when you go to bed or when you leave the campsite. Planning ahead lets you have a safe and fun vacation!


Earlier info:

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire that broke out earlier this week east of Clarno and the John Day River. 

Burnouts are conducted to rob a wildfire of fuel and allow crews to build lines in safer, more accessible areas such as roads or along existing barriers like streams or rockslides. 

Firefighters then ignite a fire that burns between the line and active blaze, removing any pickets of unburned vegetation and stopping its growth. 

Firefighters were working Friday to build new line and hold and improve existing ones. Their concerns are about rising temperatures, low humidity and afternoon winds that come through the area. 

The river remains open and the Clarno boat launch is not affected, but boaters were advised to aware that helicopters may be using the river to dip buckets. In addition, as needed, ODOT will provide a pilot car to bring people along Highway 218, with delays expected at less than 20 minutes. 

"As a reminder, conditions are getting hotter and drier in Central Oregon,” officials said in Friday morning’s update. "Everyone recreating on public land should use caution and follow fire restrictions. Know before you go! Call ahead and find out what's allowed where you plan to recreate. 

"In Central Oregon, fireworks and exploding targets like Tannerite are illegal on public lands and campfires and BBQs are prohibited along most BLM portions of the John Day, Lower Deschutes, Crooked and White rivers." 

Water-dropping helicopters and retardant-dropping SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker) planes were still on the fire, along with about 100 firefighters, challenged by the steep terrain, afternoon heat, dry fuels, low humidity and afternoon winds.

Crews were called to the fire, east of Clarno, after it was reported just before noon Tuesday south of state Highway 218 a mile east of the John Day River.

Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Lisa Clark said the fire grew quickly to the south due to light, dried-out grass, steep slopes and wind.

Crews on scene were from the BLM, Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Wheeler County.

Steep slopes and afternoon winds caused the fire to make short runs Wednesday, but crews were able to get a line around part of the fire.

Rising temperatures the next several days and afternoon winds are expected to challenge firefighters, Clark said.

The fire is burning in a mix of land administered by the BLM, including a portion of the Spring Basin Wilderness, private land and fee title land managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs called the Pine Creek Conservation Area.

Firefighters protected several historic structures during Tuesday's initial response to the fire, but Clark said no additional structures were considered threatened.

The fire was staffed Wednesday with several engines from the Prineville BLM and Wheeler County Fire and Rescue. In addition, there is a Type 1 hand crew (the Prineville Interagency Hotshot crew) and a Type 2 hand crew, each providing 20 firefighters.

Due to the limited number of roads in this area, the crews are being supported by two single-engine air tankers (SEATs), two Type 2 helicopters and one Type 1 helicopter.

"The rapid growth on the fire is a sign that vegetation in Central Oregon is quickly drying out," Clark said in a news release. "Lower elevations along the river canyons that are typically hotter and dryer are quickly moving toward extreme (levels)."

Fire restrictions are in place along portions of the John Day, Lower Deschutes, Crooked and White rivers in Central Oregon, requiring visitors to use white gas and propane stoves only for heating and cooking.

Clark said fire officials want to remind everyone to take care as they head out to recreate in Central Oregon – where campfires are allowed, make sure someone is always there to watch them and make sure they’re “dead out” when going to bed or leaving the campground.

As we approach the 4th of July holiday, they also ask that you please remember that fireworks of any kind are illegal on public land.

Meanwhile, the Wildcat Fire that broke out last week on the Ochoco National Forest northeast of Prineville has been held at 130 acres, a forest spokeswoman said. Mop-up operations continue, and smoke has been reduced along Highway 26 to the south. 

Information about the Rhoades Canyon Fire and other Central Oregon wildfires will be posted on the Central Oregon Fire Information Blog at and you can follow Central Oregon wildfires on Twitter For large fires at the local, regional or national level, visit InciWeb at

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