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Crews work from ground, air on South Fork fire

Blue Mountain Eagle

Helicopters are dipping from ponds to try to limit the spread of the fire near Dayville.

DAYVILLE – The South Fork Complex fire, just five miles south of Dayville, has grown to 61,902 acres and is 25 percent contained.

A new national-level management team, Pacific Northwest Team 3 led by Ed Lewis, took charge of the efforts this morning.

The team is using air attack and deploying hotshot crews to try to limit the growth of the fire and establish containment lines, especially on the critical northwest perimeter.

Officials said the fire made short upslope, up-canyon runs on Saturday, with spotting from the fire going about an eighth of a mile.

However, they said hotshots made good progress on the Murderers Creek drainage, using retardant drops and burnouts along the Aldridge Lookout Road to draw the fire to the east.

Also on Saturday, the fire burned into slash on the Oliver Creek area, sending up a column that was measured by radar as topping out at 37,000 feet.

The Oregon National Guard joined the effort this weekend, sending four helicopters to join the fire effort. That brings the total number of helicopters working the fire to seven.

Helicopters are dipping out of ponds on the north side of Aldridge.

Firefighters are using dozers to build and clean up fire lines on the north end of the fire.

A Level 1 evacuation order – meaning residents should be alert for possible evacuation – remains in place for ranches and other property south of Highway 26 near Dayville and south of Deer Creek and east of the South Fork River.

A red flag warning for fire weather conditions is in effect through Tuesday, with increasing risk of thunderstorms.

Meanwhile, the Bald Sisters Fire east of Prairie City is at 875 acres, burning in steep timbered canyons.

Crews are working on indirect fire lines, and have completed a safety zone – a safe place for firefighters to fall back on if the fire begins spotting around them or outflanking them.

Crews today were working on a fire line along Forest Road 2652 east of the fire, and firefighters and dozers will be used to tie into it from Forest Road 13.

Area or road closures remain in place for both fires.

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