Central Oregon blaze grows to 6,000 acres

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BEND, Ore. — Firefighters battling two fast-moving wildfires northwest of Bend worked Sunday to keep flames behind containment lines on two flanks, away from about 250 evacuated homes and the city’s watershed.

Hot and windy weather helped two blazes, first spotted Saturday afternoon, quickly grow to more than 6,000 acres, nearly 10 square miles.

Afternoon temperatures in Bend reached a high of 77 degrees, with winds to fan the flames, according to the National Weather Service.

“That’s going to be the challenge, getting this fire through the heat of the day, through the afternoon winds and holding it through that,” said Lisa Clark, a spokeswoman for the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

Fire officials said about 2,000 homes were in an area that is considered threatened, and several roads in the area were closed.

About 25 people stopped by a Red Cross shelter Saturday for information, water, snacks and other assistance, along with 15 more on Sunday, said Paula Fasano Negele, a spokeswoman. The shelter at a middle school in Bend is equipped to help people who need a place to sleep, though none did Saturday night, she said.

Crews focused Sunday on preventing the fire from spreading east and south toward homes, Clark said. To the west, they hoped to protect the watershed that supplies drinking water for the City of Bend.

As a precaution, the city switched off its surface water and began relying entirely on groundwater. Groundwater supplies are sufficient for Bend’s needs, but the city asked residents to conserve nonetheless in case of extended problems or the need to draw on ground water to fight flames in the city, said Anne Aurand, a spokeswoman for the city.

Fire crews had no estimate for when the fire would likely be contained.

Some evacuees told the Bend Bulletin (http://bit.ly/SpSHBy ) they’d thinned brush and scooped up pine needles to protect from a wildfire.

“The whole development is in the woods,” said Mike Johnson who lives in the evacuated Saddleback neighborhood, which has plots of 2½ acres and bigger.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said the level of particulates in the air spiked Saturday night in Bend, but the air quality improved overnight, when flames are calmer.

Hospitals in Bend and Redmond were preparing to treat patients with respiratory conditions, but told the Bulletin none had showed up by Sunday afternoon.

A fire lookout on Black Butte first spotted the two blazes near Tumalo Reservoir. They had not completely merged but were being treated as one fire.

They were burning in a mix of Deschutes National Forest and private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, according to the dispatch center.