Though you’d be hard pressed to find any smoke, the 33,451-acre Long Hollow Fire was still listed at 75 percent contained Tuesday, as the hard work of mop up in steep canyons continued, according to a spokesperson.
“We’re on a glide path to demobilize and turn this fire back to the local administration by Wednesday,” said Alan Hoffmeister, public information officer with the Northwest Incident Management Team 10.
Lost in the fire was one historical building, the Ferry Canyon Homestead, acquired in 1908 by the Hills Ranch for railroad workers, said Stephanie McKinney, an information officer with Team 10. It was acquired by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the 1990s, and was used for a time for camp hosts.
That ended a few years back and the BLM had been working with the community of Maupin and the State Historic Preservation Office to determine the building’s future. “Locally, it has a lot of historical significance and importance with the community,” she said.
The building sat at around rivermile 26 or 27 on the Deschutes, she said. Maupin is quite a ways upriver, at rivermile 51.
All evacuation levels along the Deschutes were lifted by Monday.
On Monday firefighters were working in areas of the steep Deschutes River Canyon. “Those areas are being gone over very carefully this morning again to be sure that any hotspots near the edges of the fire are put out,” he said Monday.
If something flares up well within the interior of the fire and has no potential to go anyplace, “we don’t worry about it, we let it burn out,” he said.
He said mopping up is dirty work, and it means getting into places with water on your back and a shovel to put out the fire.
When its so hot out that its tough just going from your car to the house, “imagine being in a canyon where rocks are hot and fire is hot, in protective clothing and a hard hat. Very difficult, very hazardous.”
Firefighters were unable to carry enough water for themselves to last for a day, so water stations were set up for them, filled with ice and holding water bottles, he said.
The fire was started July 26 when a combine harvesting wheat caught fire on land about five miles southeast of Dufur, said Hoffmeister.
“Whether it hit a rock and threw a spark we aren’t exactly sure but it started behind the combine and this area is non-protected, it’s not in a fire district. They don’t have a volunteer fire district they can call at the drop of a hat,” he said.
“So the local landowner and probably his neighbors got involved and did what they could, and that day it was extremely hot and it was breezy if not windy,” and it blew toward the Deschutes River.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was called in the first day, and it put air resources on the fire, “but that that point it was pretty much too late, it was running,” Hoffmeister said.
It burned southeasterly and jumped the Deschutes River into Sherman County, continuing another roughly two and a half miles from the river.
The southern end of the fire borders Hwy 216, where backburns were set to rid the area of fuels. “As explosive as things are with the dry fuel and high temperatures, this fire, as all the fires in the area, will throw embers ahead of themselves, so a road or river won’t necessarily stop a fire,” he said in explaining the backburn.
About three miles of 216 are against the edge of the fire.
Team 10 is a Type 2 team, and it took over from a Type 3 team from Arizona earlier at the peak of the fire. As of Sunday night, 235 people were assigned to the fire, but they were beginning to leave by Monday, Hoffmeister said.
Hoffmeister said the interagency teams bought in to handle fires when they get bigger are not only there to handle the operational side of fighting a fire, but the big job is to take care of the people fighting the fire.
They take care of everything from feeding them to providing showers, medical service, a post office, a lost and found, and track hours worked.
“Lots of detail to take care of,” Hoffmeister said.
Hoffmeister said he’d heard Monday morning that the country was at its highest preparedness level, Level 5, “and resources are in short supply. We have a crew arriving in Portland today from Puerto Rico to help us, that’s how tight we are for resources.”