(Update: Adding new video, comments from fire official)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) - A brush fire broke out east of Highway 97 just north of Bend on Friday afternoon, closing the highway completely for a time until crews could get a handle on the blaze, officials said.
It's the second fire to spark in Central Oregon this week, as the Teller Flat Fire east of Madras began burning Tuesday and grew to almost 1,000 acres at its peak.
The Highway 97 brush fire was reported just after 1:30 p.m., burning in heavy juniper and brush on city-owned land in the 64400 block of North Highway 97 near milepost 132, about two miles north of Cooley Road, east of the highway and west of the railroad tracks, Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said.
Forward progress of the blaze was quickly stopped, but the fire required extensive mop-up by several agencies due to the involvement of several old-growth juniper trees.
"We've been dropping hazard trees and mopping up significantly, just to make sure it doesn't flare up again," said Bend Fire & Rescue Captain Mike King said later.
An investigation determined the fire was human-caused, Kettering said, but an exact cause could not be determined.
The northbound lanes of Highway 97 were closed initially and at one point all lanes closed as smoke blew across the highway and the fire, burning in heavy, older juniper trees and brush, was initially estimated at about an acre.
A hose line was around the fire perimeter about a half-hour after crews arrived, but Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch (U.S. Forest Service) crews were called in to assist in mop-up and overhaul amid breezy conditions, as were Alfalfa and Cloverdale fire units. Also assisting at the scene were Deschutes County sheriff's deputies and ODOT.
Kettering told NewsChannel 21 on scene crews had a line around the roughly one-acre fire, but mop-up would take some time due to the amount of juniper in the area. She said Forest Service crews worked to fall some of the larger hazard trees.
One northbound lane of the highway reopened shortly after 2 p.m. amid major traffic backups. As mop-up continued, one lane was open in each direction before 2:30 p.m., as ODOT urged motorists to avoid the area if possible. The other lanes were reopening before 4 p.m.
"Bend Fire & Rescue would like to remind the community that fire season is upon us, and conditions are very dry," Kettering said in a news release. "Now is the time to prepare your home and property, and have a plan in place in case of wildfire.
"Being prepared in advance for a wildfire could save your life and property. Visit www.projectwildfire.org for important information on how to reduce your risk and be prepared for a wildfire," she added.
A Fire Weather Watch goes into effect for parts of Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties beginning Saturday at 11 a.m. and lasting through 10 p.m.
With the Fourth of July holiday weekend on the horizon, Central Oregon fire officials are stressing the importance of being extra-safe in these warm, dry and at times windy conditions.
"Any ignition sources that are out there, they will start readily, whereas in the spring, it's real hard to get a fire going," King said. "Right now, it's real easy."