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Wildfire patrols continue

U.S. Forest Service personnel are patrolling the Barlow and Hood River ranger districts this week to look for “sleeper fires,” those that might have been ignited by Sunday’s lightning strikes but smolder for days before bursting into flame. “We had 40 smoke reports on Mount Hood that had to be chased down,” said Laura Pramuck, spokesperson for the federal agency. “We will now be patrolling and doing follow-up work to make sure there are no other problems.”

She said eight fires sprang up in the Barlow district, which is headquartered in Dufur, during the July 13 thunderstorms.

According to Pramuck, about 300 firefighters are working to mop up these fires, including one in The Dalles watershed that is now fully contained.

“The fact we were able to catch all those small fires is a testament to the efficiency and dedication of our initial attack crews,” she said.

Although the early estimates of the fire south of The Dalles was 20 acres, the forest service now figures that five acres have burned.

“It created a lot of smoke so they originally thought it was much bigger,” said Pramuck.

She said it is a top priority of the forest service to put out a fire in a watershed as quickly as possible to reduce the level of resource damage. She said water is being sprayed on areas raked up that still look hot and extra patrols through the fire zones are taking place.

Pramuck said fire season appears to have started early this year — August is usually the prime time — so people are asked to be extra careful in grassy and forested areas on the east side of Hood.

She said recreationists can now only use fire rings in developed campsites for burning, and flames must be completely extinguished when they leave. The restriction includes the use of charcoal for barbecues.

“Even in cars, people need to be careful not to throw cigarette butts out the window or drive near the edges of roadways where grasses that can be ignited,” she said.

Off-road travel is now prohibited east of Highways 26 and 35 in the national forest. And so is smoking unless the person is inside their vehicle, at a developed campground or stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of all flammable material.

“We need people to be really vigilant right now,” said Pramuk. “It’s going to be a high tension week for our fire management organization.”

In other fire news, the White River Canyon blaze that started Saturday afternoon is now 80 percent contained, according to Brian Ballou, information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

He said $1.5 million has been spent, to date, battling the blaze that has consumed 652 acres and is being fought by 460 firefighters from different agencies and contract organizations.

“We are definitely winding down, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Ballou on Wednesday morning.

He said some of the crew will be released within the next 24 hours to help with other fires that are still growing in the region.

Critically low fuel moisture levels and high temperatures have contributed to the growth of several ongoing fires, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

The severe burning conditions has caused the National Weather Service to issue a red flag warning for wind and low humidity from 2 p.m. today, July 16, through 11 p.m. Friday.

The Jack Knife fire about eight miles southeast of Grass Valley is now up to 6,130 acres of Bureau of Land Management property.

The fire made a run yesterday and people recreating along the John Day River in that area are asked to be aware that helicopters may dipping into the water to help firefighters working in steep terrain.

A public meeting will be held tonight at 6 p.m. in the Camp Sherman Community Center for individuals seeking more information on the Bridge 99 fire burning in rugged terrain on Green Ridge and a second fire burning in the same area.

The second blaze has consumed 50 acres about one-half mile east of Lower Bridge Campground and west of Park Creek drainage within the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. A small part of this fire has reached the Warm Springs Indian Reservation as well.

Lower Bridge, Allen Springs and Pioneer Ford campgrounds remain closed. Green Ridge lookout is also closed and people are asked to avoid the area as road closure are in effect.

Multiple fires are being managed by the department of forestry as the Waterman Complex involving 3,000 acres. Blazes are being fought on Bailey Butte, private land west of Mitchell, Toney Butte, about 10 miles northeast of Spray.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has closed Highway 26 from milepost 50 to 56 and expects to keep it closed until Thursday, July 17, to remove hazardous trees along the roadway. Evacuations were ordered for some ranch properties west of Mitchell and the Ochoco Divide campground.

Six hundred acres are on fire 11 miles south of Fossil in the Carrol Rim Area, and another 600 about 15 miles of Fossil, southeast of Coffin Point. These fires are being considered one incident and fire crews from several agencies are at work to contain them.

The Prineville Bureau of Land Management has a 45-acre blaze about eight miles southwest of Dayville that is about 80 percent contained.

Several other fires are burning in the region, some in national wilderness areas and involving a total of about 2,000 acres.

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