Petes Lake Fire Update | September 2, 2023

Fire Information: (541) 801-3564

Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident-information/orwif-petes-lake-fire 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/PetesLakeFireInfo 

Resources: 219 Total Personnel | 2 Hand Crews | 3 Dozers| 4 Helicopters |15 Engines | 5 Masticators | 2 Water Tenders 

Central Oregon – The Petes Lake Fire was started by a lightning strike on Friday, August 25, near the border of the McKenzie River Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest and the Bend Fort-Rock Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest in the Mink Lake Basin area of the Three Sisters Wilderness. The footprint of the fire currently remains on the Willamette National Forest. The fire is burning five miles west of Elk Lake and is 318 acres in size.  

Smoke jumpers, hotshots, and firefighters initially engaged directly with the fire in the rugged and remote terrain of the Wilderness area. Helicopters transported firefighters, supplies, and dropped water on the fire, but dense smoke limited consistent aviation support. Because firefighter and public safety are the top priority, the decision was made to employ the Cascade Lakes Highway as a control feature. The last of the smokejumpers hiked out of the Mink Lake Basin yesterday. Since direct attack of this fire is currently not a viable option, firefighters are focusing on protecting values at risk such as structures, campgrounds, and other recreation sites. 

Yesterday: Firefighters continued to thin vegetation to improve the shaded fuel break along the Cascade Lakes Highway. Shaded fuel breaks thin dense tree stands to reduce fire’s intensity while retaining enough shade to slow down ground fire. Skidders were employed to remove dead-and-down woody debris along the highway. Firefighters chipped brush and small trees that had been removed along the highway between Lava Lake and Elk Lake. Fire managers implemented partial lane closures to mitigate the risk to firefighters working along the roadway and allow for more efficient work on the fuel break.  The structure protection team continued to assess and document structures to the east of the shaded fuel break and refine plans for structure protection.  

Today: Fire crews and heavy equipment operators will be working to improve the shaded fuel break along the highway near Elk Lake. With more equipment arriving, the improvements to the fuel break along the highway continue to support control features for this and potential future fire activity.  

Weather: Yesterday, the fire did not receive precipitation as predicted, but cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity continued to moderate fire behavior. Today, intermittent showers are predicted along with thunderstorms and the potential for lightning. The amount of precipitation expected is not enough to extinguish the fire. Fire managers say  that a “season ending” weather event, such as sustained heavy rain or snow, is needed to extinguish this fire.  

Evacuations: The Deschutes County Sheriff lifted the Level 1 Evacuation Notice for the areas east of the Cascade Lakes Highway. The Level 3 (Go Now) Evacuation Notice is still in place for all areas west of the Cascade Lakes Highway from the Lucky Lake Trailhead north to the Mirror Lake Trail. This includes the areas around Lucky Lake, Leech Lake, Doris Lake, Blow Lake and Mirror Lakes. Yesterday, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office lifted the Level 1 (Be Ready) Evacuation Notice for Elk and Lava Lakes. Evacuation notices and updates can be found at: www.deschutes.org/emergency.  

Closures: The closure order on the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests for the Petes Lake Fire remains in place and can be found at: fs.usda.gov/detail/deschutes/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD1134682.  

Resorts along the Cascade Lakes Highway remain open for business, though visitors may encounter delays with road flaggers and pilot cars. 
Safety: The public is asked to use caution and follow all signage, flaggers, and pilot cars when driving along the Cascade Lakes Highway. The public can help prevent new wildfires by observing current public fire use restrictions and avoiding other common ignition causes. 

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