Weather Service warns of more thunderstorms

Firefighting continues on fires near Cultus Lake, John Day


Published Aug 10, 2014 at 11:19AM / Updated Aug 10, 2014 at 03:19PM

More thunderstorms could be in store for Central Oregon today and early this coming work week. The National Weather Service has a red flag warning for 1 p.m. today until 11 p.m. Tuesday. In the warning the agency advises storms could produce abundant lightning and little rainfall, potentially starting new fires.

As the chance of more wildfires increases, fire crews remain busy at a the 50-acre Muskrat Fire southwest of Bend, near Cultus Lake, and the 61,902-acre South Fork Complex Fire southwest of John Day.

While not contained, fire crews have a line etched around the Muskrat Fire. The fire started Thursday afternoon, forcing camper and hiker evacuations on the west and north side of Cultus Lake. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office still has a Level III evacuation order for West Cultus Campground and nearby back country. Level I evacuation warnings, meaning people should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, are still in place for Cultus Lake Resort and Cultus Lake Campground on the east side of the lake. The Deschutes National Forest has closed the woods west and north of Cultus Lake to the public.

The popular resort is open today, said Jennee Elliff, a co-owner of Cultus Lake Resort.

Two helicopters, two 20-person hand crews, four smokejumpers and 10 firefighters who rappelled into the blaze from helicopters are fighting the fire today, according to Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville. Cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The South Fork Complex Fire is also prompting Level I warnings by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office for cabins, ranches and homes scattered to the north and south of the 61,902-acre fire, said Bill Queen, spokesman for the interagency team managing the fire.

Since lightning started the fire on July 31 it has burned more than 96 square miles, an area nearly three times the city limits of Bend. Queen said the fire is 25 percent contained.

Nearly 700 firefighters are fighting the blaze, Queen said. The army of firefighters today includes seven helicopters, 34 fire engines, eight bulldozers and 11 water tenders.

Most of the growth over the past day has been in the northwest corner of the fire, which is burning through grass, brush and timber private and public land.

— Dylan J. Darling