Sunday, 9 July 2017

Fires in Oregon

New Summer Lake fire surges; structures lost, Hwy. 31 closed

Evacuations underway; a traveler's harrowing trip

A new, nearly 1,000-acre wildfire fanned by winds near Summer Lake in south-central Oregon surged after sunset Saturday night, burning structures and prompting evacuations and a renewed closure of state Highway 31, ODOT officials said.
A traffic update around 10:30 p.m. indicated a seven-mile stretch of the highway was closed, between mileposts 64 and 71, and evacuations were underway due to the Ana Fire.
"Some structures lost to wildfire," the alert stated. "Do not travel this stretch of highway until wildfire either controlled or moves on, No detour."
In an 11 p.m. update to the region’s fire management blog, officials said one outbuilding had been reported lost as the fast-moving Ana Fire burned in steep, rocky terrain, driven by gusty downslope winds. About 150 firefighters were working to protect structures and limit the fire's southward spread along Highway 31, and more crews were being called up.
Travelers on the highway between Summer Lake and Paisley were warned of smoke reducing visibility, as well as intermittent road closures and emergency vehicles in the area.
 Follow traffic updates at our ODOT TripCheck page.
Commenting on KTVZ's Facebook page about the earlier reopening of the highway, using pilot cars, Kira Thomas said, "I highly recommend NOT GOING. Turn around and leave."
"They let us through, and we got pinned and the fire jumped the next 20 yards in front of us, with strong, strong winds fueling it," she wrote. "And within a few seconds, the fire was burning hard and fast toward us, along with burning on both sides of the road."
"We got turned around, and headed the opposite way, but trucks and trailers are stuck there,” Thomas added. “Prayers to everyone fighting the fire and the wind."
The Ana Fire was reported to Lakeview Interagency Dispatch around 3 p.m. and was burning in sagebrush and juniper on unprotected private land, the Summer Lake Wildlife Area refuge, BLM and Forest Service land, said Sarah Saarloos, interagency fire information officer with the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, but Saarloos likely was human-caused, with no recent lightning reported in the fairly remote area of northwest Lake County in south-central Oregon.
The fire broke out near the top of Winter Rim, a ridge and landmark in the area, and put up a tall smoke column visible from the Paisley and Valley Falls area, Saarloos said. But some cooling as the sun set slowed its advance and caused the smoke to start settling into the valley as crews worked to protect eight threatened structures..
The progress also prompted reopening of Highway 31 around sunset, with a pilot car guiding traffic in a five-mile stretch, between mileposts 64 and 69, until conditions worsened again.
Two large air tankers were dropping retardant on the blaze, with several engine crews called in from the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, she said.
"We're hitting it with everything we have in the area" Saarloos said, since no other significant fires were burning in the region.

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