Growing wildfire in central Oregon, more than 250 acres, prompts evacuations

A wildfire in central Oregon grew to more than 250 acres in less than three hours Tuesday afternoon and evening, triggering evacuations and leaving thousands without power.

The wildfire, dubbed the Darlene 3 Fire, quickly grew on the outskirts of La Pine in Deschutes County, requiring the response of regional firefighters. It was still spreading Tuesday evening, according to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch.

Firefighters responded to the fire around 12:45 p.m., the dispatch agency said, and authorities estimated it covered 3 to 5 acres. An hour later, the fire had already tripled in size. It reached over 250 acres Tuesday evening and was 0% content shortly before 7:30 p.m.

Residents in some areas of Deschutes County have been ordered to evacuate immediately or public safety forces may be unable to assist them. Residents of other nearby areas were ordered to prepare to evacuate.

Photos and videos posted to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page showed black smoke burning behind several properties.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed and evacuated campgrounds and trails near the Deschutes National Forest.

An evacuee shelter was set up at La Pine High School, and a livestock and pet shelter was created on the La Pine Rodeo grounds.

Governor Tina Kotek invoked the Oregon Emergency Conflagration Act, a law that allows the state fire marshal to invoke the full powers of Oregon fire departments to protect life and goods.

Midstate Electric Cooperative — an electric utility company — told some customers it would likely implement a public safety shutdown in the area following the fires.

More than 2,000 customers are without power, according to the company.

The investigation is looking into the causes of the fire.

The fire’s name, Darlene 3, is a sign of the area’s history of wildfires, according to Bend’s NBC affiliate KTVZ. In 2021, the Darlene Fire burned nearly 700 acres and destroyed two homes, the station reported.

La Pine is a rural town located about 30 miles southwest of Bend. Its population is approximately 2,500 inhabitants. The population of the greater La Pine area is just under 20,000. It is the “youngest” city in Oregon, incorporated in 2006, according to the La Pine website.

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