Wildfire near Bend human caused, reward offered

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Investigators said late Monday night that they've found evidence the fire on the outskirts of Bend that has threatened homes and burned over 6,800 acres was human caused.

An award of at least $2,000 is being offered for information that leads to a conviction, according to Capt. Shane Nelson of the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.

He said investigators located where the two fires that eventually merged into one started.

Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to contact the CrimeStoppers tip line at 1-877-876-TIPS. You can remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, the threat from the early season wildfire to homes eased Monday, as hundreds of firefighters attacked the blaze, strengthening fire lines protecting scattered rural homes and a popular outdoor recreation area.

About 50 households northwest of Bend remained under an evacuation notice after fires that erupted Saturday near Tumalo Reservoir joined to burn through an area of about 10 square miles, or 6,800 acres of heavy brush and timber. Residents of about 200 homes were allowed to return home late Sunday, but they were cautioned to remain ready to evacuate.

Although the Two Bulls fire was just 25 percent contained, a preliminary fire line encircled most of it, and crews were working to strengthen the line, particularly the east and south flanks threatening populated areas and a system of trails popular with mountain bikers, said Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Incident Dispatch Center.

{>}{>}{>}Two Bulls Wildfire Information and Evacuation Areas

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.

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

There were 708 personnel assigned to the fire, 13 bulldozers, 11 helicopters and 46 engines. Two air tankers were on standby. The costs to date were estimated at $1.2 million.

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