Warm Springs residents preparing for evacuation as fire grows - KPTV - FOX 12

Warm Springs residents preparing for evacuation as fire grows

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It is day two of the Warm Springs Fire in Central Oregon and as of Thursday evening, nearly 20,000 acres have burned.

The fire spread fast after starting Wednesday, closing Highway 26 between Highway 216 and Milepost 103 and burning two homes in addition to the thousands of acres of damage.

Locals will tell you that wildfire danger is just part of living out here, but that sentiment is still not a comfort for people who are getting ready to evacuate.

I worry about the people over there, because I’ve got family over there.  It’s pretty scary,” said Leslie Squiemphen, who lives in the Schoolie Heights community of Warm Springs.

It’s an area with a dangerously good view of the wildfire. Squiemphen is wetting down her property and getting things organized, just in case the blaze gets closer.

“I’ll probably just pack clothes, a few clothes probably… if i have to,” she said.

Police are going door to door, warning Squiemphen’s neighbors that they are now on a level two evacuation notice and they should be ready.

“We can’t make you leave, but we also can’t guarantee your safety if it gets to a Level Three,” officers warned one family.

Level Three means get out now.

Vio Vaeth’s home is out of harm’s way for now, but she worried for her friends.

I know it was scary for these people right here,” she said. “They all had to leave their homes.”

According to fire officials, the fire started Wednesday when a trailer blew a tire on Highway 26, creating sparks and spreading flames on both sides of the highway.

Firefighters from across the region have come to help, but Bill Fish with the Warms Springs Fire Department said the hot and dry conditions are fighting back.

“This is pretty difficult,” he said. “The fuels are really dry and any time we get winds associated with it, that makes it even worse.”

Nobody was home at the time that the two houses lost to the fire burned down, and so far no one’s been hurt, but Squiemphen said she doesn’t plan to take any chances.

“If it got really close to my house, I wouldn’t want to be here,” she said. “For my safety, I would leave.”

As of Thursday evening, firefighters say the blaze is barely five percent contained.

ODOT has set up detours after closing Highway 26. The eastbound detour was set at the intersection with Highway 216 to Maupin and a detour was tentatively established westbound at Milepost 103, the Deschutes River Crossing, but that was likely to change to Madras, directing drivers to Highway 97 and Highway 197 to Maupin and Highway 216.

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