The Deschutes National Forest has increased its closures on the eastern side of the Cedar Creek Fire as the blaze has moved beyond earlier containment lines, leaving containment at zero percent.
Crews had contained up to 18% of the blaze, but those gains were erased following strong winds last weekend.
The wildfire, which has been burning in the Willamette and Deschutes national forests since Aug. 1, is now 92,595 acres.
The expanded closures were put in place on Tuesday to create more efficient firefighting operations in the fire’s eastern zone, according to a release from the Deschutes National Forest.
Most of the fire growth is on the southern tip of Waldo Lake and the Cultus Lake area. The expanded closures include portions of the Three Sisters Wilderness, up to Cascade Lakes Highway’s western edge, starting south of Hosmer Lake and continuing through the current closure on Cascades Lakes Highway just south of Twin Lakes, Davis Lake and Wickiup Reservoir.
“Though the Cedar Creek Fire is moderating overall, allowing some evacuation levels to drop, firefighters still have a lot of work to do on the eastern edge of the fire to address the still actively growing fire,” said Deschutes National Forest spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean in a news release.
The easternmost extent of the fire is the Lemish Butte area. The fire has not reached the Cascades Lakes Highway or Crane Prairie Reservoir, the Forest Service reported on its Facebook page. The edge of the fire is around 20 miles from Sunriver and La Pine.
Wildfire officials have also reported that protection measures have been put in place at Waldo Lake campgrounds, but due to fire activity, firefighters have not been able to reach the area to determine if any property damage has occurred. Smoke over the fire has made it difficult for helicopters to see the status of campgrounds from above.
Fair weather conditions were expected to limit the growth of the fire on Wednesday, giving crews a chance to bolster fire breaks. Most of the barrier work on the fire’s east side is being conducted along Cascade Lakes Highway near Cultus Lake.
“It’s a pretty moderate day as far as weather goes. We don’t expect a lot of fire growth today,” said Jake Livingston, operations section chief for the Alaska Incident Management Team that is managing firefighting efforts on the east side of the blaze.
“Multiple containment lines are being set up for different scenarios,” Livingston said.
The fire is burning with low to moderate intensity, according to an update on Wednesday from Cedar Creek Fire officials.
“Although fire behavior has calmed considerably since last weekend, fuels are still dry and combustible. Smoke will continue to linger through the week, impacting air quality,” the report said.
Over 1,800 personnel are working to contain the wildfire, with resources that include 93 engines, 28 crews, 87 heavy equipment, and 11 helicopters.
Joan Kluwe, a spokesperson for the east-side operations, said not all water bodies are being used to collect water for firefighting operations and helicopter water drops.
At Crane Prairie, buckets and scoopers are restricted from using this source to minimize the spread of invasive species present there, including Eurasian watermilfoil and Chinese mystery snail. Managers want to limit the potential for the spread of these species to other bodies of water in the area, said Kluwe.
Waldo Lake is also off-limits because it has been identified by the state as an outstanding resource, with extremely high water quality.
“This lake is not being used to support suppression efforts to minimize the potential for contamination of this waterbody,” said Kluwe.
Cultus Lake was identified as suitable to support air operations due to the large and deep water margins. Additionally, it is within the fire closure area, keeping activities within a clearly defined area for future monitoring.
Other lakes closed to air operations include Gold Lake, Upper and Lower Marilyn lakes, and Upper, Middle, and Lower Emma Bell lakes.
Use of heavy equipment continues along the Cascade Lakes Highway, creating a 100-foot fire break on the west side of the road. To the north, structure protection continues around Lava Lake. Structure protection is also ongoing around Odell Lake, including Golden Lake Campground, Willamette Pass, and the Diamond Peak area. Work is underway to protect more than 100 structures near Odell Lake.
Parts of Oakridge remain under a Level 2-Be Set evacuation alert, although most of the city has been reduced to a Level 1-Be Ready order.