Evacuation warnings still up at Cultus Lake

Muskrat Fire has burned 60 acres

An evacuation order for a boat-in campground on the west side of Cultus Lake and evacuation warnings for Cultus Lake Resort and the Cultus Lake Campground on the east side remained in place today and will continue until at least Saturday morning as firefighters fight the Muskrat Fire.

The Deschutes National Forest today issued a closure for public lands around the fire, primarily north and west of Cultus Lake. The fire had burned 60 acres in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area and was not contained, Kassidy Kern, spokeswoman with the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville, said this evening.

After meeting with firefighters this morning and afternoon, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies decided to keep the evacuation levels where they have been since Thursday afternoon, said Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Shelton.

“We are going to wait until the morning (to consider changing the levels),” he said tonight.

Firefighters mainly fought the fire from the air today, Kern said, due to difficult terrain.

“(The fire is) in the wilderness ... so it is steep, it is rugged,” she said.

Six helicopters pulled water from nearby lakes Friday and dropped it on the fire, Kern said. Two Oregon Air National Guard chinooks took water from Cultus Lake and the other four helicopters grabbed water from Teddy Lake. On the ground two 20-person hand crews, 11 smokejumpers and four firefighters who rappelled from a helicopter to the fire attacked the blaze. Cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The Muskrat Fire was first spotted around 12:45 p.m. Thursday and prompted an evacuation order for West Cultus Lake Campground as well as the north shore of the lake and backcountry north of the lake. The order covers Corral Swamp and Winopee, Muskrat and Teddy lakes. The evacuation order resulted in 75 to 100 people leaving from the west side of Cultus Lake, Shelton said.

The fire also caused the sheriff’s office to issue an evacuation warning for Cultus Lake Resort and the Cultus Lake Campground.

The Cultus Lake Resort was open today and Jennee Elliff, a co-owner of the resort, said firefighters seemed to have a handle on the fire burning about 5 miles from the resort. The fire sent up a smoke column Thursday as it grew in heavy timber.

“It’s just a little puff of smoke now across the lake,” Elliff said this morning.

— Dylan J. Darling