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Wildfire evacuation orders loom over Oregonians as summer arrives

An unusually early start to Oregon’s wildfire season had some residents on the Warm Springs Reservation in north-central Oregon and others in Southern Oregon under the most urgent evacuation orders.

And in Central Oregon, firefighters were trying to contain two campsite fires on public wildlands east of La Pine. The fires, which were labeled as “suspicious” by fire officials, had each destroyed an RV and were spreading toward La Pine.

The Warm Springs Reservation’s S-503 Fire was estimated to be over 6,000 acres, according to a Sunday evening update on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Fire Management agency’s Facebook page. It had issued a level 3 “Go Now” evacuation order for residents west of Back Walters Road and Kelly Springs, but later revised them to Level 2 “Get Set” status.

About 250 homes and structures total in the Pine Grove community were threatened by the fire. Many residents in the area are also under Level 2 “Get Set” status. Over the weekend the Warm Springs Fire Management Agency and the Bureau of Indian Affairs brought in five aircraft to aid the firefighting effort, including an air tanker dropping retardant on the fire and two helicopters dropping water. Firefighting efforts were being escalated. No structures had been reported burned and no injures have been reported as of 7:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters were concerned about fire growth to the Northeast toward Pine Grove and also to the southwest, as the winds were shifting.

The Cutoff Fire continued to burn Monday in south-central Oregon’s Klamath County, about six miles north of Bonanza. It was estimated at 1,500 acres, burning in timber with about 10% containment. About 125 structures were threatened. A Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation order was issued for those living south of Highway 140 and north-northeast of Bonanza, according to a Klamath County press release posted to Facebook. Residents outside this zone were placed on a Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation standby order.

The North River Road Fire burned about 60 acres in Southern Oregon between Rogue River and Gold Hill. TheOregon Department of Forestry said in a Facebook post that crews Sunday had created a containment perimeter around the fire. It was determined to be human-caused. Local authorities issued a Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation notice for some residents.

Warm, dry weather means the fire danger will continue to rise Monday and Tuesday, according to a fire weather forecast from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. Starting Monday afternoon, Southern Oregon is at risk of thunderstorms and lighting. Central and Eastern Oregon could also see thunderstorms in the next few days. However, the storms are likely to bring rain as well as lightning, which could reduce the risk of new fire starts.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

David Steves, Amelia Templeton