Central Oregon fire officials confirmed that a new wildfire that was burning in rugged and difficult-to-access terrain on the Willamette National Forest 18 miles east of Oakridge was expanding rapidly — it had already consumed 500 acres at the time of the most recent report — and sending smoke over the mountains and into the Bend area Wednesday afternoon.
The lighting that has been seen in the area in the past few days has started a new fire called the Cedar Creek Fire. It has spread over about 500 acres and is located about one mile west of the Black Creek Trailhead on the 2421 road. It is also about 18 miles east of Oakridge, 3.5 miles west of Waldo Lake, and 6 miles north of Highway 58.
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The location is off-limits due to an unexpected closure order. It is requested that hikers and other people who use the forest refrain from using any paths that branch off Forest Service roads 2421 or 2424. The fire is active and is currently spreading to the north, spotting in all directions and producing a massive plume.
Late in the evening of Monday, August 1st, the Cedar Creek Fire was reported as a single smoke as local responders frantically hurried to respond to 20 or 30 other fire reports. On Tuesday, August 2nd, a load of helicopter rappelers was dispatched, but they did not accept the assignment because they reported that the terrain was too dangerous for safe entry.
While alternative possibilities were being thought about, two additional firefighters were dispatched to search along the 2421 road for an access point. They were successful in locating the fire and first assumed that it had spread across five acres. During most of Tuesday, a helicopter was tasked with making water drops while the forest worked to identify a path that would allow additional firefighters to enter.
The new size was estimated to be around 100 acres on an early detection flight today, August 3rd. Today, a helicopter was once again given as an assignment. Nevertheless, there was a problem with the mechanical components, and a Type 2 helicopter was unsuccessful. A Type 1 Incident Management Team and an additional Type 1 helicopter have been requested.
There was no reliable or safe access to the fire, there were no escape routes for firefighters on the ground, and as of yet, there do not appear to be any natural barriers available for firefighters to use to put out the fire, which is especially problematic in the absence of air support. As a result, crews that were assigned to the fire have been pulled back. The fire managers are continuing their efforts to devise a strategy that will allow firefighters to get to the blaze.
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