'We can't afford another start': Fire crews dig in on High Pass

The High Pass fire as seen from the air. (Oregon Department of Forestry)

DEVELOPING | Level 1 "Get Ready" evacuation notice issued for homes closest to the fire

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. - Fire crews pitched camp in Junction City on Friday in anticipation of a lengthy fight against a human-caused wildfire burning about 10 miles west of town off of High Pass Road.

"Already the fuels out there have been baked all summer lon,g so we're at critical low fuel moisture levels," said Link Smith with the Oregon Department of Forest. "The fire is just set up to spread right now."

Neighbors are watching the fire with interest.

"I've spoken with a few people and they said we're about two miles away from the fire over here on Lavell Road," Lindsey Bell said Friday. "The winds from the north are pushing it towards the west, so we're not too worried about having to evacuate or anything like that."

On Friday evening, Junction City Fire & Rescued announced a Level 1 "Get Ready" evacuation notice for the homes closest to the fire.

The fire was estimated at 3 acres early Thursday morning. A day later, the fire had burned at least 200 acres.

The smoke was visible from weather satellites Friday morning.

"Every time the conditions would change on us, blow it in another direction and push it where we couldn't change on it," Smith said.

Smith said firefighters are facing high temperatures, low humidity and steep terrain. As many as 600 hand crews could be on the ground working the fire by Saturday, Smith said.

That the fire was human-caused is frustrating, Smith said.

"What we've seen the last few years, we have enough problem with lightning as it is, much less to see the kind of human caused fires that we're starting to see," he said.

He said the forestry department is still responding to illegal burns and other potential firestarters.

"It's lined up to be about as bad as it can really get right now," Smith said. "We can't afford another start."

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