(Update: COCC-Redmond also evacuated/closed; second fire north of Redmond Air Center at 200 acres; more photos)
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) — A fast-spreading brushfire broke out early Tuesday afternoon in southeast Redmond and may have sparked a second, larger fire, both putting up thick smoke, closing Highway 126 and prompting wide evacuations and call-up of several task forces, as well as closure of the Redmond Airport, officials said.
The first fire, called the Antler Fire, was reported shortly after noon in the area of Southeast Ninth Street and Highway 126, as temperatures in the region again soared toward 100 degrees.
The fire, Incident 419, was estimated at 20 acres less than an hour after reported, with a task force of engine crews from the Forest Service, BLM and Oregon Department of Forestry supporting Redmond Fire, Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Kassidy Kern said.
There soon were two fires, one, the Antler Fire by Ninth Street and Evergreen Avenue and a new fire, Incident 422, north of the Redmond Air Center, where Forest Service firefighters and air tankers are based.
Erratic winds were whipping up Incident 422, estimated by late afternoon at 200 acres just north of the Redmond Air Center, and a heavy air tanker was ordered to drop retardant and assist crews in stopping the fire at Highway 126. Water-dropping helicopters were working to cool hot spots.
Shortly 3 p.m. came this word: “Due to adjacent fire activity, the Redmond Municipal Airport is CLOSED until further notice. Have flight questions, please contact your air carrier directly.”
And minutes later the evacuation area expanded again south of Highway 126 to include the area east of SE Lake Rd to Veterans Way to SE Sisters Ave. to Highway 126.
Due to the nearby fire “and out of an abundance of caution,” COCC announced late Tuesday afternoon it was evacuating and closing its Redmond campus, until further notice.
Into the evening, Highway 126 eastbound access was closed at Highway 97 and Northeast Ninth Street was closed from Highway 126 to Hemlock Avenue, as crews .
Earlier, around 1:30 p.m., the city of Redmond posted on Facebook:
The following areas are being asked to evacuate:
Hwy 97-E Antler Ave-SE 9th St-Hwy 126-Hwy 97
The following areas are under an evacuation advisory:
NW of E. Antler Ave. to NE 9th St.
The following streets have been closed:
E. Antler Ave. – E. Hwy 97
All streets north of Hwy 126 from Hwy 97 to NE 9th St.
All streets south of Antler Ave. from Hwy 97 east past NE 17th St.
Crews are on scene and working to contain the blaze. Cause of fire has not yet been determined.”
At mid-afternoon, the fire evacuation area expanded north to Hemlock Avenue. The initial fire was contained, city officials said, but the second, larger fire was spreading north from Highway 126.
Winds were causing big issues with spot fires on another day of over-100-degree weather.
An interactive Deschutes County map of the Level 3 (Go Now!) and Level 2 (Get Set) evacuation zones is at:
ODOT reported at mid-afternoon that Highway 126 was closed at milepost 2, and earlier said SE Evergreen Avenue and Ninth Street were closed off Highway 126 and urged alternate routes. Follow traffic updates at our TripCheck page.
Red Cross volunteers were assisting Deschutes County officials at a temporary evacuation point at the county fairgrounds. Those affected by the fire can go there for assistance.
Numerous other brush fires were breaking out around the region in Tuesday’s third straight day of record heat.
West of Bend, crews stopped a vehicle fire Tuesday afternoon that had begun spreading into the brush and closed Century Drive for a time in front of the Widgi Creek Golf Course.
And at mid-afternoon, crews were responding to a new start, Incident 423, east of Meissner Sno-Park on the Deschutes National Forest. Lava Butte lookout estimated the fire initially at a half-acre. Three engine crews, a hand crew and a bulldozer headed in to tackle it. Officials said the fire was lined by early evening at 1.6 acres, with a hose lay around it and mop-up work was under way, with crews to continue work through the night.