Canyon Creek Complex fire grows by 3,000 acres

The Canyon Creek Complex fire, a combination of the Mason Spring and Berry Creek fires burning east of Highway 395 between Canyon City and Seneca flared up Thursday afternoon and Friday, Aug. 13 and 14, forcing road closures and evacuations throughout the area.

JOHN DAY — The Canyon Creek Complex fire grew by nearly 3,000 acres over Saturday night, and the fire’s management has been taken over by incoming federal and state firefighting teams.

The fire, five miles south of John Day, grew from 34,143 acres to 37,119 acres over Saturday night, said Karen Roganov, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fire Service Malheur National Forest.

The fire is most active in the southeast corner of the Strawberry Wilderness, according to a forest service update. Firefighters may be hampered by gusty winds predicted for Sunday.

Two incident management teams — a federal wildland firefighting team and an Oregon State Fire Marshal’s team — are managing the Canyon Creek Complex. They took over management under a unified command as of 6 a.m. Sunday.

A meeting with people who evacuated from their properties is planned at 2 p.m. Sunday at Grant Union High School. While that meeting is only for evacuees, a community meeting, open to everyone, will be at 4 p.m. Sunday at Grant Union High.

Level 3 areas where residents have been told to evacuate immediately are:

  • Dog Creek-south of Marysville; Marysville South; Pine Creek – gravel pit, south; Canyon Creek; and Edgewood Drive.

Level 2 areas where residents have been told to prepare to evacuate are: Laycock Creek; Adams Drive; Nans Rock Road; West Bench Road; Luce Creek; Marysville north; Pine Creek-gravel pit, north; and Dog Creek-north of Marysville.

Approximately 300 firefighters are assigned, and more are anticipated to arrive to assist with the Canyon Creek Complex. Air tankers provided support to the fire operations Saturday, and the lack of a smoke inversion Sunday morning allowed helicopter operations to get an early start providing support to ground operations.

The fire so far remains uncontained, and no predictions have been made as to when the fire will be contained.

Equipment operators have been requested to fill up tanks prior to leaving town to minimize impacts to water sources. They also have been asked to notify local land managers of stray livestock in an effort to assist permittees.

More than 200 residents have been alerted in the past several days to evacuate immediately or to prepare to evacuate, said Nathan Garibay, an information officer from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department who was brought in to assist the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.

At least 26 homes have been destroyed, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Garibay said more assessments will be done to determine how many more structures were burned.

“Any areas under a Level 3 are at risk,” Garibay said. “Firefighters are working real diligently to mitigate those risks.”

Property owners whose homes were threatened will be allowed access to their properties to salvage belongings, he said. Residents must check in and out with the sheriff’s officer at the roadblock, however.

“As conditions allow, the sheriff’s office is allowing residents to go past the roadblocks,” Gilbray said. “It is going to be done on a case-by-case basis and will depend on fire behavior and fire resources. It could change throughout the day.”

Both of the incident commanders stressed the importance of working together with the local resources.

“As we work in this incredibly resilient community; we recognize local responders and the public who worked to help friends and neighbors through this very difficult event with limited resources. We will be here for as long as it takes to ensure that you have the support you need moving forward,” said Jim Walker, Oregon state fire marshal and Red Team Incident commander.

Beth Lund, Great Basin Team 1 incident commander, agreed.

“We are working with local leaders to support the community and responders,” she said. “Today’s priority is for a safe and organized transition. We are assessing the fire situation and building on the long standing relationships in this community.”

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