The Milli Fire west of Sisters and Nena Springs fire on the Warm Springs Reservation have been spreading.
MADRAS, Ore. — Just a few days away from Monday’s solar eclipse, the fire activity in central Oregon picked up as gusting winds and low humidity on Friday fanned flames.
There is still plenty of blue sky to be seen, but also layers of smoke hanging lower on the broad horizons in this arid part of the Pacific Northwest.
“There are red-flag warnings for central Oregon. That means there is a high potential for ignition and rapid spread,” said John Saltenberger, a fire weather analyst with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
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The fires have caused some road closures and put some Forest Service backcountry areas off-limits to eclipse campers.
But key routes across the Cascades to central Oregon remain open, and Madras — an eclipse hub with festivals and many activities — remains distant from the fires. During the weekend, temperatures are expected to ease along with the winds, according to Saltenberger.
One of the blazes of highest concern is the Milli Fire, burning, as of Friday afternoon, about 5 miles west of the town of Sisters. It has expanded to more than 4,560 acres, resulting in evacuation orders for the residents of some 440 homes.
“It is unfortunate. They are doing everything they can to protect those homes and stop the fire before it gets anywhere near them,” said Steve Berube, a fire information officer.
Another fire, Nena Springs, on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, was largely contained until an ember kicked up by Thursday winds started the fire going again outside the fire lines. It raced toward Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, a prime viewing spot for the eclipse, where guests sheltered in place and evacuation notices were issued for some reservation homes.
The fire expanded by some 6,000 acres overnight, with fire crews using burnout tactics to help protect the resort.
The Kah-Nee-Ta Resort on Friday is open, according to staff, and through a traffic rerouting can still be reached by newly arriving visitors.
Oregon Highway 26, a main route to central Oregon, has not been affected by the fire.