Central Oregon blaze human-caused, reward offered

BEND — An early season wildfire on the outskirts of this central Oregon community was human-caused and a $2,000 reward has been offered for information, investigators say.

The fire threat eased Monday with more than 800 people assigned to fight the blaze, strengthening fire lines protecting scattered rural homes and a popular outdoor recreation area.

By Monday night, the Two Bulls fire was 25 percent contained after burning about 10 square miles, or 6,800 acres of brush and timber, the Central Oregon Fire Information Center reported.

About 50 homes northwest of Bend remained under an evacuation notice. No structures have been lost.

Fighting the blaze has cost $2.2 million so far, fire officials said.

Two fires that erupted Saturday near Tumalo Reservoir joined together to form the main wildfire.

An investigative team that included the Oregon State Police, U.S. Forest Service, Deschutes County sheriff's office and state Department of Forestry located the origin of both fires and determined they were human-caused, sheriff's Capt. Shane Nelson said Monday night in a statement. No details were provided.

Cascade Timberlands is offering $2,000 for information leading to a conviction, Nelson said.

Residents of about 200 homes were allowed to return home late Sunday.

Crews were working to strengthen a preliminary fire line, particularly on the east and south flanks where the blaze threatened populated areas and a system of trails popular with mountain bikers, said Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Incident Dispatch Center.

The hottest part of the fire was on the western and northwestern flanks, moving up the eastern slope of the Cascade Range and away from the city of Bend. After the governor invoked the Conflagration Act, structural fire crews from around the state were stationed around threatened homes. Firefighters also worked to keep the fire from the city's watershed.

At Rocks Springs Ranch near Bend, Michael Wolber and April Hartley's wedding was about to begin Saturday when a fire truck rolled up, sirens blaring. Hartley's father soon told guests that the ranch would have to be evacuated. Then came a reprieve: An abbreviated ceremony could proceed.

The minister, Liz Leavitt, quickly married the couple and everyone cheered, The Oregonian reported. Then guests piled into their cars and the reception relocated to a park in Bend.

As the only major fire in the Northwest, fire bosses were able to take advantage of plentiful resources, said Northwest Interagency Coordination Center spokesman Tom Knappenberger. A Type II incident management team, the second-highest level available, took charge Sunday.

A cooling trend was forecast for the next week, with highs up to 81 degrees and winds of 15 to 20 mph.

No injuries or serious property damage were reported, the Deschutes County sheriff's office said.

The fire was burning primarily on private timberlands and some of the Deschutes National Forest, Clark said.

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