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Central Oregon fire deemed conflagration; local firefighters called to help

 Posted: 10:40 AM June 09, 2014

Crews battling the first big fire in what's expected to be a tough season in central Oregon face windy conditions as they try to draw containment lines.

Five firefighters from the Oregon Department of Forestry's Medford and Grants Pass offices have been called to Bend to assist other agencies from around the state in fighting the Two Bulls Fire.

ODF spokesman Brian Ballou said they will be part of a contingent of more than 700 firefighters battling the nearly 7,000-acre blaze.

Gov. John Kitzhaber invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act on Saturday in response to fires. A press release from the governor's office said he determined that the fire poses a threat to life, safety and property, including a rural subdivision and the city of Bend's water supply. The threat likely exceeds the capabilities of local fire-fighting agencies, he determined, so state resources will be mobilized.

About 50 households northwest of Bend were under evacuation notice this morning after two weekend fires started near Tumalo Reservoir and joined together. The fire posed a threat to hundreds of homes in rural subdivisions as well as the city's water supply.

Authorities on Sunday allowed residents of 200 homes to return.

Winds of 10-18 mph will be gusty and make the fire challenging until about Thursday, when cooler, calmer conditions are expected, said Lisa Clark, spokeswoman for the Central Oregon fire dispatch agency.

Oregon fire authorities have warned that many areas are dry and vulnerable to wildfire. Large logs in the Two Bulls fire area are as dry as they normally would be a month later in the season, Clark said.

No injuries or serious property damage has been reported, Deschutes County Sheriff's spokesman Justin de Ruyter said Sunday. "As far as we know, we haven't heard of any structures lost," he said.

Crews focused Sunday on preventing the fire from spreading east and south, Clark said.

To the west, they hoped to protect the watershed that supplies Bend's drinking water.

As a precaution, the city switched off its surface water and began relying entirely on groundwater. Groundwater supplies are sufficient for Bend's needs, but the city asked residents to conserve nonetheless in case of extended problems or the need to draw on groundwater to fight flames in the city, said Anne Aurand, a spokeswoman for the city.

Fire crews had no estimate for when the fire would likely be contained.

They blazes were burning in a mix of Deschutes National Forest and private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, according to the dispatch center.

— Staff and wire reports

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