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Break in weather helps firefighters battle Scoggins Creek Fire

Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: JOHN SCHRAG - The success in containing the Scoggins Creek Fire near Henry Hagg Lake was a group effort, according to Joe Hessel, an Oregon Department of Forestry unit forester out of LaGrande who served as the operations chief at the fire. About 100 people showed up at the Gaston Fire Hall Sunday evening to hear the latest update on the Scoggins Valley Fire.

State, regional and local fire officials were able to share what was largely good news.

While the fire burning near Henry Hagg Lake is not fully contained, crews using bulldozers and hand-tools have created a perimeter around the entire fire and are optimistic it will hold.

Thanks to some favorable weather and an estimated 137,000 gallons of water dumped on the blaze in the past two days, officials said the once fiery-inferno is now more like a giant smoldering campfire.

And while they were careful not to declare victory, they were definitely upbeat -- particularly since two days ago they feared the fire could consume thousands of acres.

Mike Cafferata, the local District Forester for Oregon Department of Forestry, said his crews, working with local firefighters, will "do everything we can to keep it in place."

The blaze, which started Friday afternoon in dense private forest land as a "garage-size" fire on private forest land, "exploded in an instant" to 20 acres, Gaston Fire Chief Roger Mesenbrink told the crowd.

By Saturday, it had scorched 400 acres two miles northwest of the lake, prompting emergency personnel to give out evacuation orders to 32 households and put dozens of other residents on notice to be ready to leave.

Those orders were lifted Sunday afternoon.

Earlier Sunday, Oregon Department of Forestry officials reported that the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Green Team demobilized from the incident today and that responsibility for structure protection had reverted back to the Gaston Rural Fire Protection District.

ODF's Incident Management Team 2 will continue working on the fire.

Scoggins Valley Park, where Hagg Lake is located, will remain closed until further notice.

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