Desolation fire grows and prompts evacuation warnings
2:13pm Update: Expanded area closure for the Desolation fire
The Ochoco National Forest has expanded a temporary road, trail and area closure for the Desolation fire to promote public health and safety while the fire is actively burning and firefighters are engaged in a suppression effort.
The order temporarily prohibits the public from entering Mill Creek Wilderness and Forest Service land north of the wilderness, up to and including Forest Service Roads 27/2730/2745 to the north and northeast of the fire.
The Forest appreciates public tolerance during the suppression efforts and will reopen the area to the public as soon as it’s deemed safe to do so.
PRINEVILLE, Ore. – Strong wind gusts out of the northwest fanned the Desolation fire late yesterday afternoon, pushing the fire south out of the wilderness toward private structures along Highway 26 and prompting Level 2 evacuation notices for around 27 residences late yesterday evening. The Level 2 evacuation notice is still active urging residents to stay alert and be prepared to leave if the need arises.
The Desolation fire, a lightning start first reported Saturday in Mill Creek Wilderness on the Ochoco National Forest, is now estimated at about 2,000 acres. A community information meeting will be held tomorrow, Thursday, September 14, at 5 pm in the Eastside Church in Prineville to share information about the fire.
Firefighters worked through the night last night putting in several miles of containment line between Highway 26 and the fire using dozers and back burns. Work continues today to strengthen and expand existing containment lines on the south, east and north sides of the wilderness. A Type 3 Central Oregon incident management team takes command of the fire today, focusing on a confine and contain strategy for the fire and keeping the fire north of the state highway.
Aerial firefighting is expected to continue today, too. Fire managers have been using water and retardant drops to slow the fire’s progress on actively burning flanks. A structure protection group will begin working to secure private residences in the area this morning, as well.
Today’s forecast is calling for another round of strong wind gusts late into the afternoon. Smoky conditions are expected in the Ochoco Divide area today from both the wildfire and burnout operations. ODOT workers will be on Highway 26 to help keep traffic moving safely through the area.
Smoky conditions can be difficult for anyone who suffers from a respiratory or heart condition. Be mindful of yourself or others who may have challenges in these conditions. Be aware of anyone who is vulnerable to the changing weather and air conditions as well.
The Forest Service plans to issue an expanded closure order today that includes all of Mill Creek Wilderness and Forest Service land north of the wilderness up to Forest Road 2745. Workers have been making contacts with hunting camps and other visitors through the night to give notice of the planned closure.
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