Sunriver, Oregon Fire: Evacuation Alerts Issued, ‘Firenadoes’ Stirred Up By Strong Winds In Cornelius

The Sunriver fire in Oregon rages out of control as firefighters battle the blaze in dry and windy conditions. The wildfire broke out Wednesday afternoon in the Deschutes National Forest. Winds in Oregon have spread the fire to over 300 acres in less than 24 hours. A Level 1 evacuation notice has been issued for those living in the area.

According to KTVZ, a Level 1 evacuation notice has been announced for those living near the Fall River Fish Hatchery and the Fall River Estates Subdivision. A Level 1 notice serves as a warning for residents to prepare for evacuation. It is the lowest of the three evacuation alerts used. Those living in the area have not yet been asked to leave, but if the winds persist, and the blaze cannot be contained, a full evacuation may be ordered.

The Sheridan fire, as it is officially referred to, is just west of the resort town of Sunriver, Oregon, which lies in the path of the fire.

An Oregon Forest Service spokesperson stated that the fire was noticed by a lookout at around 4:30 p.m. Within an hour and a half, it had spread to nearly 100 acres, and in less than three hours, the blaze had engulfed 300 acres.

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The wildfire was “moving southwest at a moderate spread rate” at 6 p.m. last night, said spokesperson Patrick Lair.

By 8 p.m. the fire had slowed. However, it had also changed direction to the south-southeast toward Fall River and Sunriver.

Deschutes County Sheriff deputies have been busy closing roads and keeping people out of the area. They also asked that rafters stay out of the river so that airlift helicopters could fill their buckets. They do not yet know the cause of the blaze.

As crews continue efforts to bring the Sunriver fire under control, Forest Service officials are moving more resources into the area.

KTVZ reports that “seven fire engines, two bulldozers, a water tender and three helicopters dipping water buckets into the Deschutes River” were called to the fight.

Since then two tanker aircraft have also been deployed.

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The Sunriver wildfire is not the only thing keeping Oregon Forest Service crews busy. Although the Sheridan blaze is its top priority, six other smaller fires were burning near Sisters and Black Butte. Only about two-tenths of an acre of land has been affected by those outbreaks.

Meanwhile, in Cornelius, Oregon, a field fire was burning and putting on quite a show as winds created “firenadoes” across the fields. According to Capital Press, a grass fire was started by a piece of farming equipment. As the wind spread the blaze, several vortices formed.

Whirlwinds are very common across flat land. When farm fields are plowed and dry, vortices are often visible for miles. These mini tornados are commonly referred to as “dust devils.” However, their formation is a bit different than the way a fire vortex forms.

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According to Scientific American, dust devils happen when one area of the ground heats up faster than surrounding areas. This uneven heating causes hot air to rise quickly in that location pushing cooler air out of the way and creating something like a chimney. As the hot air rises more hot air in the vicinity moves in and up creating a swirling column.

The same principles apply to a firenado, but the formation process is somewhat different.

Cornelius Fire Department spokesman Matt Johnston told Capital Press, “the fire sucks in oxygen to fuel itself and the heat rises, causing the spinning column of flames and smoke,” adding that “erratic winds contributed to the flaming phenomenon.”

Johnson took video of one of the firenadoes for Q13 News.

The Cornelius Fire Department says that Oregon’s wildfire season has been mild so far, but that the hot, dry weather over the last few days has crews worried. It seems those concerns are justified with wildfires breaking out in Sunriver, Sisters, Black Butte, and Cornelius all on the same day.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]