Lightning sparks 5 wildfires south of Lake Billy Chinook; largest stopped at 8 acres after evacuation alerts


(Update: Fire stopped at about eight acres)

CULVER, Ore. (KTVZ) – A thunderstorm ignited five new wildfires mostly south of Lake Billy Chinook Friday afternoon and the largest grew to about eight acres, prompting Three Rivers-area evacuation alerts before firefighters on the ground aided by water-dropping aircraft stopped its spread, officials said.

Incident 775, named the Big Canyon Fire, was reported just after 5 p.m. and at nightfall was estimated at about eight acres, officials said.

Six engine crews, a hand crew, a bulldozer, water tender and other resources responded on the ground, while in the air, two fire bosses, a single-engine air tanker (SEAT plane), a Type 2 helicopter and air attack plane helped firefighters on the ground.

Four large air tankers were ordered, officials said, but were stood down after fire bosses got a water line around the fire’s perimeter.

Firefighters Thursday evening were working to secure lines around the perimeter and were to remain on scene throughout the night. The Oregon Department of Forestry assumed unified command with Lake Chinook Fire and Rescue.

As for the smaller blazes, the largest was held to a quarter-acre, two others a tenth of an acre and one was a single-tree fire.

The fire broke out in the area of Southwest Upper Canyon Drive, and by 6 p.m. prompted a Level 2 “Get Set” alert for all of Three Rivers. The state’s wildfire dashboard on our Fire Alert page said it had grown to about 10 acres by 6:40 p.m.

“Evacuation Warning. Significant Risk,” the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office advised on Facebook. “Pack your vehicle and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”

The Three Rivers Landowners Association said in its Facebook posts that the sheriff had called a Level 3 “Go Now!” evacuation in the Upper Canyon Rim Drive area. It also shared photos and videos of the aerial attack as it made good progress to stop the blaze’s spread.

Sheriff’s dispatchers said deputies had gone door to door in the affected area.

Cove Palisades State Park reportedly was offering to take in evacuees.