WARM SPRINGS, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 25,000 acres have burned in a blaze that came close to homes and forced the evacuation of the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Warm Springs.
White smoke continued to fill the sky as more than 400 firefighters battle the flames Monday. At one point the fire threatened two subdivisions and the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, but now threatens rural homes.
Helicopters doused the fire with buckets of water and a fire-retardant, and crews dug lines to protect homes.
The fire, which started Saturday and is now dubbed the Sunnyside Cutoff Fire, is headed east toward the Deschutes River. Firefighters say it was human caused, but the means haven’t been identified.
About 200 people were evacuated and allowed to go home Sunday. But Sunday afternoon, about 120 people in 40 homes in two subdivisions were told to leave. As of Monday, they remain displaced and are receiving help from the Red Cross.
Firefighters reported one uninhabited homestead dwelling burned.
One of those faced with evacuation, Orlando Stevens, told KOIN 6 News he just bought his house four months ago. “It’s either leave and live with the suspicion of ‘Did my house burn?’ or try to protect it,” he said.
He stayed and his home was spared.
Stevens also works at the resort. “We had a lot of guests that were forced to evacuate and refund their money,” he said. “It’s tough. We’ve got insurance.”
He also said he feels badly for the seasonal workers. “It’s hard, a lot of them Kah-Nee-Ta is way out here and they have to drive 50 miles to get here and they’re not getting to work right now.”
“We’ve had pretty good fuels this summer because of the spring rain, and the winds have been erratic in all directions,” said Clay Penhallow of The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. “The fires moved around quite a bit and it was spotting out, so that’s why it jumped the river and it jumped the roads.”
Monday morning, the fire size was estimated at up to 39 square miles (about 25,000 acres) and has doubled in size since Sunday. It was estimated to be 10% to 20% contained, according to William Wilson, spokesperson for Warm Springs Fire & Safety Department. The area remains under a red flag warning due to low humidity and high winds.
Fire crews were stationed at the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort. The main lodge was already closed by an unrelated fire. It started Thursday in the kitchen and caused extensive damage.
– Jessica Morkert and Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.