Firefighters battle three local blazes
Three wildfires erupted Sunday, June 25, which sent firefighters scrambling from Madras to Warm Springs, while another burned along the Deschutes River near Maupin.
The biggest fire ignited Sunday around 8:45 p.m., in Warm Springs. It closed U.S. Highway 26 for several hours and threatened several structures, included Indian Head Casino, where it burned close to the back of the building, and KWSO Radio Station, where flames burned around the building.
Some nine-miles of U.S. 26 were closed, then opened with cars led through by a pilot car, due to heavy smoke. Highway 3, to Kah-Nee-Ta, was also closed while firefighters worked to suppress the flames.
Jefferson County Fire District assisted on structure protection with one truck, one staff person and two volunteers four about three hours.
Bob Medina, Warm Springs Fire Management dispatcher, said it has been reported that the fire was caused by a blown transformer but said, "It's still under investigation and we don't know the cause yet." He said three homes behind the former Warm Springs Mill were also threatened.
On Monday, Medina said the fire was 2,400 acres, as aggressive back-burns were set to eliminate fire fuels. Warm Springs had four hand crews onsite. It was about 35 percent contained as of Monday evening.
"We ordered outside help because our resources were exhausted. We have eight engines, five water tenders, two helicopters on it," he said.
"It's headed north-northeast, by the Deschutes River on the reservation side, and will spread if the wind picks up. We're concerned about the Wolf Point subdivision, which is about eight miles away. They are doing back burning today," Medina said.
The first fire on Sunday was reported near 2 p.m., a blaze near the Pelton Dam turnoff, now named the "Schoen/Hagen Fire.
Kasey Skaar, at the Jefferson County Fire District station said they responded with one tender truck, three brush rigs, four staff firefighters, and 13 volunteer/student firefighters. Warm Springs Fire and Safety brought an additional tender and three brush rigs.
Skaar said the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Management took over because it had more resources.
Medina said the cause of the 35-plus acre fire is under investigation, but it is suspected that an ATV started it.
"It started at a fishing campsite by the river and spread. We still have people on it; a 10-person hand crew, and three engines," He said on Monday.
Meanwhile, Sunday evening, at 11:39 p.m., Jefferson County firefighters were called to a wildfire in a vacant lot on McTaggart Road, just north of the Strawberry Heights subdivision.
"The cause is under investigation and a state investigator has been called in, because we had two fires there last year," Skaar said of suspicious circumstances.
The fire burned old fences on the former Hering homestead site. Nine volunteers and three staff members responded and extinguished the flames.
Another fire getting regional attention is a blaze along the Deschutes River, on Bureau of Land Management land three miles north of Maupin, the Oak Springs Fire. It burned up and area on the west side of the Deschutes River Canyon, and firefighters worked to protect structures.
Boaters and rafters were cautioned to watch for helicopters dipping water out of the river to help fight the fire. The road to Oak Springs Fish Hatchery was closed on Sunday, but was expected to be contained that night.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Responding were two helicopters, a 20-person hand crew, the Prineville Hotshots, three engines and Oak Springs fire resources, according to a press release from the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.