USA– OR- A brushfire broke out late Wednesday afternoon northeast of Warm Springs and raced across 1,500 to 3,000 acres before firefighters got it out, having reached within a half-mile of some homes.
The fire was reported around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday near the landfill about seven miles northeast of Warm Springs and was driven by moderate winds across sagebrush and grass to the Deschutes River and close to 60 to 70 homes in the Wolfe Point subdivision, said William Wilson, Warm Springs assistant fire management officer for logistics.
Al Bagley, who lives in Wolfe Point, saw the smoke from his backyard.
“When I looked up and saw all the fire and smoke, you could see where it was edging this way down the hill,” he said Thursday. “You could see the fire line, and I could see fire crews up there, putting it out.”
According to Brad Donahue with Warm Springs Fire Management, the fire started in the ceremonial pit, where people burn items of their loved ones who passed away.
“It’s legal,” Donahue said. “They have permits for it.”
The winds quickly pushed the flames over the hill.
“It was tough to just walk in those winds, let alone fight fires,” Donahue said.
Wilson said Wednesday night the homes were “within a half-mile of the fire but are fairly safe, unless we get shifting winds.”
Fortunately, crews were getting it contained and extinguished..
There were about 40 firefighters on the blaze Wednesday night, using five engines and a bulldozer, Wilson said.
Wilson added that the early-season conditions “are the worst we have witnessed in 35 years,” expressing concern that “history may be made, as far as fire occurrence and acreage burned.”
The flames were contained around midnight. Donahue said it helped that the fire was burning on an old burn scar, and the grass there is not very thick.
Officials expected an early fire season due to drought conditions and the lack of snow over the winter, but even they were surprised — the official start of the reservation’s fire season is Friday.