A portion of the wildfire near Sisters is burning in a designated wilderness area. That’s forcing fire crews to adopt different strategies for different parts of the fire.
About 10,000 acres of the so-called Pole Creek Fire are burning in the wilderness area of the Deschutes National Forest. Fire managers say that area hasn’t had a wildfire in at least a century, and is overgrown.
Mark Rapp, a fire management specialist with the forest, says the brush is hip deep in some areas.
"You can’t walk through this stuff," he says. "Of course we can’t use mechanical equipment in the wilderness. So that limits our ability to actually get in there and fight the fire."
In other parts of the forest, roads provide natural fire breaks. With no roads in the wilderness area, however, crews are hoping trails and natural features like streams or rock outcroppings will keep the fire from advancing.
No critical habitat areas for endangered species – which could force fire managers to change their strategy – have been identified in the wilderness. That means for the moment that crews will have to actively fight only what they can get to.