Lack of rain hurting efforts to tame Oregon fire

SISTERS, Ore. — A fire making for smoky mornings in the Central Oregon town of Sisters is expected to keep burning until autumn rains extinguish it, but residents have been told no moisture is in the forecast.

Firefighters told residents at a meeting Thursday night that they expect to keep the Pole Creek blaze away from populated areas. But morning smoke is common in the town of 2,000, prompting health advisories, the Bend Bulletin reported.

The smoke gets trapped under cold air in a temperature inversion.

The Pole Creek fire and others in the region are expected to generate smoke in the Willamette Valley and parts of eastern and central Oregon until the fires are out, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Friday.

The fire is now at 40 square miles and spreading in the Three Sisters Wilderness area. Firefighters say falling snags make it too dangerous to fight the flames inside the wilderness area. A natural barrier awaits it as it moves higher.

“It is going to burn into the rocks and run out of fuel,” said John Allen, supervisor for the Deschutes National Forest.

While the weather forecast doesn’t call for rain, dry thunderstorms are expected around the Pole Creek Fire the next few days, said Jon Bonk, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “Fortunately, I don’t see a lot of wind coming with these thunderstorms,” he said.

More than 1,200 people are working on the fire, but some crews have been released.

The fire started Sept. 9, and investigators have determined that it began near the Pole Creek Trailhead southwest of town. The cause is unknown, Allen said.

“It was just burned significantly, so it has been a tough one to investigate,” he said.

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