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Hot Weather Keeping Firefighters Busy


Central Oregon fire crews were busy again chasing field and other fires Wednesday as temperatures heated into the 90s in many locations.

Crook County Fire and Rescue and the BLM responded around noon to a small brushfire off Juniper Canyon and Barita roads, said Fire Marshal Casey Kump.

Neighbors reported seeing a fire in a field behind their house. Kump said it was caused by a burn barrel that was not properly extinguished.

The fire was contained to about a half-acre and did not threaten structures, he said.

Just as firefighters got a hand and bulldozer line around a small but visible fireworks-caused fire in the woods southwest of Sisters Tuesday afternoon, two new fast-moving brushfires broke out in Jefferson County, sending up tall smoke plumes southwest and north of Madras that sent smoke streaming into other communities.

The first blaze, Incident 177, was reported about 5:35 p.m. near Belmont Lane, 2 1/2 miles southwest of Madras, and has burned 20-25 acres, said Lisa Clark of Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch in Prineville. That’s a smaller acreage than earlier thought, as an air attack crew better sized up the blazes.

There are several structures in the area, but Clark said the fire was burning toward an area with no structures, surrounded by agricultural fields.

Around 6:10 p.m., another fire, Incident 178, was reported near Fir Lane, 3 1/2 miles north of Madras. It was thought to have burned 500 acres, but later Tuesday, the estimate was revised downward, to 17-20 acres. Clark said winds pushing the smoke column over and spreading it apparently gave the impression of a much larger fire.

Portions of the fire were surrounded by irrigation canals and roads, with areas of sagebrush and juniper.

Area land owners were using farm equipment and working with BLM and Jefferson County fire crews to contain the blaze. There also were no immediate threats to homes there, Clark said, although there are some homes in the area.

Smoke from the blazes poured south into Culver, Crooked River Ranch and Redmond, residents told KTVZ.COM. Tumalo residents also reported thick smoke at sunset from one of the nearby fires.

The cause of the Jefferson County fires was under investigation, Clark said.

The first fire reportedly jumped Belmont Lane, west of Madras, officials and area residents said.

“I can’t believe all the smoke out my kitchen window,” said Sindi Short of Metolius.

Jefferson County sheriff’s dispatchers said they had no word of any evacuations.

Meanwhile, a small but very visible wildfire sent up a tall smoke plume southwest of Sisters Tuesday afternoon and grew to 11 acres despite a great deal of attention and fire crews, including two water-dropping helicopters, officials said. One of the helicopters later was freed to head out and help battle the Jefferson County fires, Clark said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, officials said they had determined the fire, now 50 percent contained, was caused by fireworks.

The lookout atop Black Butte spotted the fire, labeled Incident 174, burning in a mix of pine and sagebrush about three miles southwest of Sisters, Clark said.

The fire earlier estimated at five acres, posed ?no imminent threat to structures,? as it was moving slowly toward the west-southwest, directly south of Sisters Cow Camp, Clark said.

At least five engines were called in from the Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service and Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District, Clark said. One 10-person crew and another five-member crew were on site tackling the fire, with one bulldozer also in the fight and another en route.

?We actually have a lot of resources available,? Clark said, so crews are trying to knock the fire down fast and early amid rising temperatures.

By nightfall, Clark said crews had hand and bulldozer lines around the blaze, though they were not yet declaring it contained.

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