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FireWatch: Cougar Peak Fire balloons to an estimated 25,000 acres

The Cougar Peak Fire started about 15 miles northwest of Lakeview on Tuesday afternoon. Fire officials said that it remained active overnight.

Posted: Sep 9, 2021 9:24 AM
Updated: Sep 9, 2021 5:59 PM

LAKEVIEW, Ore. —

UPDATE: Fire growth on the Cougar Peak Fire is "substantial" Thursday afternoon as the fire pushes to the north and northeast, fire officials said on Thursday, though a more accurate accounting of its growth likely will not come until later Thursday night or Friday morning.

Firefighters and aircraft have been working to attack the south and southeastern flanks of the fire, officials said. Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) have been dropping retardant on these areas while helicopters deliver bucket drops to help protect homes and cabins in the area.

A hotshot crew from Prinevile is also conducting burnout operations along lower Cottonwood Road to the 28 Road to help secure new dozer lines along the fire's flank.

As evacuations from the Cougar Peak Fire are likely to spread, a Red Cross shelter has been established at the Lakeview Church of Latter-Day Saints on 17880 Highway 395. 

(Updated 9/9/21 at 5:40 p.m.)


INITIAL REPORT: The Cougar Peak Fire northwest of Lakeview continued to grow unabated on Wednesday, surging to an estimated 25,000 acres with no containment as of Thursday morning.

The fire was first reported on Tuesday afternoon, growing quickly among elevated winds and dry conditions. It is located about 15 miles to the northwest of Lakeview, burning primarily to the northeast within the Lakeview Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest and on Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) protected lands

Fire officials said that the fire remained highly active on Wednesday, with the flames running, torching, and spotting amid mixed conifer and brush.

"The fire made a major push to the north and east burning into the Little and Big Baldy area," officials said. "Resources worked into the night on the south flank constructing dozer line from the valley floor near Cox Creek to Forest Road 28 and from Lower Cottonwood to Forest Road 28. Dozer line on the west flank held."

The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) says that numerous wildland firefighting resources are already attacking the fire, with more requested.

A SCOFMP Type 3 Incident Management Team has been managing the fire thus far, but two outside command teams will now be taking control of the firefight. Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 8, a Type 2 Team, arrived in the area on Wednesday and took over joint command Thursday morning with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Blue Team.

OSFM structural taskforces from Clatsop, Lane, Linn, Yamhill, Clackamas and Marion counties have also arrived at the scene.

There is a Red Flag Warning in effect from 1 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday for strong, gusty wind with low relative humidity and abundant lightning on dry fuels. A Fire Weather Watch in effect from Friday morning through Friday afternoon for the risk of abundant lightning on dry fuels.

Drivers are advised to use caution in the area due to firefighter traffic and the possibility of low visibility from the smoke. Area residents and visitors are also asked to avoid traveling on Forest Roads near the Cougar Peak Fire, including Forest Road 28 and Forest Road 3870, also known as Cottonwood Road.

Recreation sites in the area are closed, including Upper Cottonwood Campground and Cottonwood Creek Trailhead. This includes a Level 3 "GO" evacuation order for Lower Cottonwood Road north to Forest Road 3870-041, and a Level 1 "Get ready" notice for Forest Road 28, from the Forest Boundary northwest to Cox Flat.

"Fire danger remains 'Extreme' in Lake and Klamath counties," SCOFMP said. "Extremely dry fuels and seasonal winds can make even a small spark rapidly grow into a large wildfire. These fires can be destructive, resulting in evacuations, damage to property and natural resources, and affects public and firefighter safety."

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