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Central Oregon fire triggers Level 2 'Be Set' evacuation notice for homes on Hwy 26

Five air tankers were busy dropping retardant and water on the Desolation Fire northeast of Prineville on Wednesday. (USDA Forest Service)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. – Five air tankers worked Wednesday to cool a wildfire in Central Oregon that prompted an evacuation notice for homes along an Oregon state highway.

The Level 2 "Be Set" notice issued Tuesday remains in effect for 27 homes near Highway 26.

The homes are threatened by the 2,000 acre Desolation Fire.

Northwest winds drove the blaze out of the Mill Creek Wilderness area on the Ochoco National Forest toward homes on Tuesday.

Lightning started the fire. It was detected Saturday, September 9.

A community information meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 14, at 5 p.m. at the Eastside Church in Prineville.

"Firefighters worked through the night last night putting in several miles of containment line between Highway 26 and the fire using dozers and back burns," Patrick Lair with the USDA Forest Service said in a report Wednesday. "Work continues today to strengthen and expand existing containment lines on the south, east and north sides of the wilderness."

Fire managers are focused on confining and containing the fire.

"A structure protection group will begin working to secure private residences in the area this morning, as well," Lair said Wednesday.

The forecast Wednesday called for more strong wind gusts in the afternoon.

"Smoky conditions are expected in the Ochoco Divide area today from both the wildfire and burnout operations," Lair said. "ODOT workers will be on Highway 26 to help keep traffic moving safely through the area."

Burnouts are intentional, controlled fires ignited by firefighters to burn up potential fuels and create a barrier between the fire and containment lines.

Lair said the Forest Service planned to expand the closure area around the fire to include the entire Mill creek Wilderness and all public lands managed by the Forest Service north of the wilderness to Forest Road 2745.

"Workers have been making contacts with hunting camps and other visitors through the night to give notice of the planned closure," Lair said.

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