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Wildfire Threat Grows, Small Central Oregon Fires Continue

Oregonians from southeast Portland all the way to La Pine have reported seeing plumes of smoke from huge wildfires over the past several days. But most of those reports have been the same fire near the Warm Springs tribal reservation. From the central Oregon bureau, Ethan Lindsey reports.

Colder, wetter weather — and no lightning — gave Oregon an early August respite from the flames. Still, regional firefighters have now been working on the Warm Springs fire for more than a month. Wind gusts over the past week managed to undo a lot of progress and scare firewatchers.

Jeree Mills is the spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland.

Jeree Mills: “The fire that's causing all the smoke is the Warm Springs Agency Lightning Complex. That fire for three days in a row, actually put on over 1000 acres. They had a plume so large, folks in Portland were calling around thinking that Mount Washington was erupting.”

The 12,000-acre fire is burning 20 miles west of Warm Springs. Even though it's 65-percent contained, dead trees and dry conditions aren't helping the 700  firefighters.

The wind also frustrated crews at the two other major wildfires still burning in Oregon, the Battle Creek Complex near Enterprise and the Trout Meadows fire near Ukiah.

Small brushfires whipped up across central and eastern Oregon. A small blaze within the Bend city limits came within 25 feet of  a dozen homes Monday night.

Bend firefighters issued a voluntary evacuation for 154 homes. Deschutes County sheriffs went door-to-door in the neighborhood, but no residents were forced out. About 70 people spent a few hours in an American Red Cross shelter at Mountain View High School.

A fire spotter plane circled overhead, looking for bursts of flame.

Fire inspector Jeff Bond was on site Tuesday, investigating the fire. He says people were allowed back in their homes by 9pm, and in the end, no structures were burned.

Jeff Bond: "The brush fire was, you can see, right over here in the neighborhood adjacent to this area. It was an undeveloped area, so just brush and sage and juniper. Its an area that seems to be frequented by neighborhood kids."

The cause of the brush fire is under investigation but was likely human caused. Bond says the fire department hopes this relatively harmless fire will serve as a reminder that fire conditions are still extreme this summer.

Firefighters will be on alert through the end of the week — lightning is predicted across much of the state's High Desert.

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