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W.S. fire threatens homes

Sunnyside Turnoff Fire grows to 45,491 acres


by: PHOTO BY LINDA LARSON - A small lead plane directs a large retardant jet dropping its load near a house in the Wolfe Point subdivision on the Warm Springs Reservation. The Sunnyside Turnoff Fire started Sunday morning and had grown to 45,491 acres by Wednesday.A human-caused fire that started Sunday morning east of Warm Springs has grown to 45,491 acres on the Warm Springs Reservation.

By Wednesday morning, an infrared flight showed that the Sunnyside Turnoff Fire, which had threatened three subdivisions and Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, was more than double the acreage reported on Tuesday, with containment at 40 percent. All but about 5,800 acres of the increase was attributed to the fact that areas burned in the first several days had not been included.

Located on the south side of the Mutton Mountains and west of the Deschutes River, the fire started along Highway 3, near the Sunnyside subdivision, and burned around the Wolfe Point subdivision, the Charley Canyon subdivision, and Kah-Nee-Ta, causing the evacuation of hundreds of people.

"We don't know the cause," said William Wilson, assistant fire management officer. "It's under investigation. The only thing we do know is that it's human-caused. A cigarette was found in the vicinity."

by: PHOTO BY WILLIAM WILSON - The Sunnyside Turnoff Fire took off on Highway 3 - the road to Kah-Nee-Ta - on the Warm Springs Reservation."Our priority was to protect lives and property," he said, noting that nothing was burned in the subdivisions or at Kah-Nee-Ta, but one uninhabited outbuilding in Charley Canyon burned.

On Tuesday, residents were allowed to return to Kah-Nee-Ta and Charley Canyon, but the area remained closed to the public. It is expected to reopen Wednesday morning, when Highway 3 reopens to the public.

Because of the fire's growth, tribal police gave notice to residents of the Schoolie Flats area adjacent to the northwest flank of the fire that they should remain on alert and be prepared for evacuation if conditions worsen.

Segment 1 of the Lower Deschutes River was closed earlier this week, but reopened Tuesday evening to rafting and camping.

The Bureau of Land Management reported that people rafting or floating the river should be aware that conditions could change, and that helicopters may be using the river to dip buckets for firefighting.

by: PHOTO BY LINDA LARSON - Warm Springs Fire and Safety Chief Dan Martinez, center, meets with a crew near the Wolfe Point subdivision.A total of 565 personnel were assigned to the fire, including 20-person crews from the U.S. Forest Service, contractor crews, BLM crews, and a fuels crew from Warm Springs.

"It's been fairly active," said Wilson, pointing out that there was a red flag warning in effect for low humidity and high winds, which had reached 20-25 mph. "It's reaching the Deschutes River now, and we're trying to hold it on this side. It's also established itself on the south slope of the Mutton Mountains."

Three USFS planes from the Redmond airport were being used to drop retardant on the fire. Management of the fire was turned over to a Type II incident management team — the Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 4 — at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The command post is located near the Warm Springs Fire Management building adjacent to Highway 3.

An unrelated power outage also took out some phone lines on the reservation on Sunday, Wilson said. "The power outage wasn't from the fire. We have full phone use here."



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