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Wildfire Closes Oregon Campgrounds

August 5, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Thunderstorms that peppered the central part of Oregon with more than 2,000 lightning strikes late Thursday (Aug. 4) just added to the concern for more wildfires as a new, likely human-caused blaze along the lower Deschutes River quickly grew to 3,000 acres, forcing evacuation of several campgrounds and closure of state Highway 216, KTVZ-TV, Bend, reported.

The Brown Road Fire about eight miles north of Maupin sparked such concern that an incident management team was being moved over from the Deadman Canyon Fire northeast of Madras, which moved to 80% containment Thursday, with full containment expected today, said Lisa Clark, fire info spokeswoman at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

The new blaze was reported around 1:30 p.m., burning in grass and shrubs in the steep canyon on the east side of the lower Deschutes, moving quickly upslope from the bottom of the canyon to the rim above the river. Sherman County Rural Fire District was part of the unified command attacking the fire, Clark said.

Several campgrounds were evacuated around the Pine Tree rafter put-in point, Clark said, as the fire burned in a southeasterly direction. The river and river access road had not been closed, but the fire was burning along the river and both sides of the access road. Also, several large helicopters were pulling water from the river to drop on the flames.

If the river or access road closed, rafters on segments three or four were warned to be ready to move to a different segment if necessary.

The fire also forced closure of a six-mile stretch of state Highway 216, from Sherar’s Bridge to Gras Valley, according to Oregon Department of Transportation.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, but Clark said there had been no lightning in the location, which is a high recreation use area, making a human cause more likely.

Several structures were within a mile or so of the fire atop the canyon. Clark said there’s mostly private land and agricultural fields, with private ranches scattered in the area.

Rafters and motorists in the area were warned to use caution, due to fire traffic along the narrow access road and the presence of helicopters.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for abundant lightning in the region through late Thursday night. Most of Thursday evening’s storm and lightning tracked on the east side of the Ochoco National Forest, so many eyes will be on the region for any new fires.

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