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Whitewater Fire slowly grows over 10,000 acres near Mount Jefferson

The Whitewater Fire has blackened 10,118 acres, mostly in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, and has moved within 2 miles of State Highway 22.

Crews on the Southwest edge of the Whitewater Fire performed controlled burnout operations to strengthen control lines. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Incident Command Team)

The Whitewater Fire is no longer the top priority in Oregon, but the blaze burning near Mount Jefferson has remained active during the past week.

The Whitewater Fire has blackened 10,432 acres as of Wednesday, mostly in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.

The Little Devil Fire, now 485 acres, is 2.5 miles southeast of Breitenbush Hot Springs.

On Wednesday afternoon, hours after the Marion County Board of Commissioners authorized a Level 1 evacuation notice for the hot springs resort area and a portion of the Willamette National Forest, Breitenbush announced a temporary evacuation through September 18.

"To prepare for the unlikely case that fire reaches Breitenbush, we are taking measures to protect our homes, buildings and surrounding forest," read a statement on the retreat's Facebook page.

The Level 1 evacuation notice area includes the Humbug and Breitenbush Campgrounds, the Fox Creek and Cleator Bend Group Sites and the Short Mountain and Bald Butte Trailheads. The towns of Detroit and Idanha are not included in the notice.

Level 1 means residents should be prepared for the possibility of an evacuation.

“Both fires are still active and have grown some in size, but they’re not growing in leaps and bounds the way the Whitewater Fire was earlier,” incident spokeswoman Sandra Lopez said Monday.

Part of the reason Whitewater has slipped under the radar is the rise of so many wildfires across Oregon’s Cascade Crest — Mount Jefferson to the Three Sisters. There are around 19 large and small fires burning in Willamette National Forest and even more statewide.

“It might take a little longer to get resources because the Whitewater isn’t the top priority anymore, but we still have a big team working the fire every day,” Lopez said.

The Whitewater Fire has been most active on its northern edge, where it has expanded across the South Fork Breitenbush.

It has also moved south, toward popular Pamelia Lake, but hasn’t burned around the lake itself, Lopez said. The fire has also mostly stayed out of Jefferson Park.

The hot and dry weather could bring additional fire growth, and given the size, the fire is likely to burn until the fall and winter rains.

Crews have focused on building containment lines around the fire, especially to the south and west.

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