PRINEVILLE, Ore. - (Update: Fire chief says two homes damaged, fifth-wheel destroyed; 'seamless response' saed homes)
Two homes were damaged and a fifth-wheel trailer was destroyed by a fast-moving brush fire that broke out Tuesday afternoon and raced up Barnes Butte on the eastern edge of Prineville, but officials praised a coordinated federal-local fire air and ground response that kept the damage from being much worse.
Two homes on Denton Lane, a cluster of homes on the hill, sustained "moderate damage," Crook County Fire Chief Matt Smith said Wednesday.
"They had melted siding, a broken window, but livable," Smith said. One family was out of their home overnight.
Smith said initial reports around 2:22 p.m. were that the fire was burning up the hill on Northeast Laughlin Road and threatening several structures. Crews arrived to find several homes threatened on Laughlin, Denton and Northeast Compass, with a fifth-wheel camp trailer fully involved and fire and flame front reaching an occupied home.
The fire chief said "very quick, aggressive action" by his agencies and BLM and Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters, police and sheriff's deputies, the home's elderly residents were evacuated and the fire was diverted around the home and detached garage.
Four other homes were quickly evacuated as the fire burned through the cluster of houses and up Barnes Butte.
The fire was fought under the joint command of firefighters from Central Oregon Fire Management Service and Crook County Fire and Rescue.
Key to the fight: five single-engine air tankers (SEAT planes), five helicopters, eight engines, one hand crew and one Hotshot crew.
"It was a seamless response," Smith said. "Without that, we would have lost some houses."
The American Red Cross said it sent disaster responders to assist the evacuated residents -- four adults, three children and pets -- with their immediate basic needs.
Forest Service spokesman Patrick Lair told NewsChannel 21 attacking the flames from the air is the most efficient way to fight a fire of this kind.
"When we have really dry conditions like this, with wind, its really hard to stop those running grass fires," he said. "And so what we have seen today is a lot of aircraft dropping a lot of water and retardant on the fires. That's really the best way to fight a grass fire in these conditions."
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Mop-up work on the fire continued Wednesday
Laughlin Road was closed from Combs Flat Road to Highway 26 East due to the fire.
Three 'suspicious' Warm Springs fires burn 90 acres
Meanwhile, on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, three fires that burned about 90 acres broke out around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday near U.S. Highway 26 about two miles north of Warm Springs.
Charles Hudson of Warm Springs Fire and Safety said the fires are being investigated as suspicious due to their close proximity to each other and their occurring around the same time.
The fires did not prompt closure of the highway, but a regional structure-protection task force was being called up due to some threatened hillside homes. The task force was called off when firefighters got an upper hand on the blazes.
The fires were 80 percent contained by 5 p.m., but crews were digging lines into the evening. Five engines, a water tender a forestry squad of seven and two fire and safety brush trucks were called out.
Meanwhile, another fire, Incident No. 477, broke out east of Sunriver Tuesday afternoon and was held to a half-acre. Firefighters responded with two engines and two crews and were able to declare the fire contained and controlled by day's end. The cause of that fire also is under investigation.
"The public is reminded to be careful with any ignitions on public lands," Tuesday night's update said. "Central Oregon recently moved to high fire danger, meaning fuels are very receptive to ignitions. If you are recreating on public lands, remember to remain diligent about ensuring all fires are ‘dead out’ and cold to the touch, all spark arrestors are properly installed, and trailer chains are secured."