PORTLAND — Oregon’s fire season got more intense Friday as lightning peppered the southwest and south-central regions, touching off dozens of fires, and a week-old wildfire advanced to within a few miles of a small community along the Deschutes River.
In Central Oregon, the Sunnyside Turnoff fire has led to several evacuation advisories as it has burned north through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The fire grew by about by 2 to 3 square miles Wednesday and Thursday as it moved through ponderosa pine forest in the Mutton Mountains. By Friday, it had begun to leave the reservation, and burn on private and federal government land.
It was within a few miles of a cluster of 10 vacation homes on the west side of the Deschutes River in an unincorporated community, Dant, in Wasco County.
Homeowner Robert Groves said one family remained. He and guests left because of the smoke. He said the area gets irrigation and fire-fighting water from the river.
When the fire threat gets serious, Groves said, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad sends a fire train with half a dozen tanker cars, pressurized hoses and a crew to defend a nearby bridge and tunnel. As of midday, the train hadn’t been dispatched, he said.
“When they’re there, it’s really a good feeling,” he said.
In Southern Oregon, the state Department of Forestry said an air tanker with fire retardant and four helicopters were dispatched to Douglas County to attack new fires while they’re small.
More than 400 lightning strikes were recorded overnight in Oregon, 200 in Douglas County. More than 60 fires were reported, 54 in Douglas County. By midday Friday, the Department of Forestry said, two of the fires had grown to more than 5 acres and several others were 2-3 acres.
“This is what we were worried about. … Once we get an ignition source, the potential for large fires is great,” said Carol Connolly, a spokeswoman at the northwest fire center.