(Update: Road reopens)
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) – A new wildfire broke out near U.S. Highway 26 northwest of Madras Saturday afternoon, burning about 60 acres and closing a 40-mile stretch of the highway for hours, prompting lengthy detours for weekend travelers.
The Pelton Dam Fire, Incident 391, was reported shortly before 2 p.m. on the grade near Pelton Dam in the area of milepost 109, six miles south of Warm Springs, and prompted closure of the highway shortly thereafter.
ODOT said a detour was in place between mileposts 71 and 111, making use of state Highway 216 and U.S. Highways 199 and 97. Track updates on ODOT’s TripCheck page; by late Saturday night, only "minimal delays" were reported.
Jefferson County Fire Chief Brian Huff said crews from the Jefferson County Fire District, BLM, Warm Springs Fire and the Bureau of Indian Affairs worked hard together on the blaze, "making a quick knockdown."
Huff said the fire's cause has not been determined and crews would be working into the night.
By 5 p.m., a "shuttle" was worked out, with one lane open and traffic allowed through in alternating directions, with pilot cars, Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said.
The fire apparently began beside the highway but moved away as it grew, still sending smoke across the roadway, Adkins said earlier.
The fire broke out in an area outside the protection area for the Oregon Department of Forestry or Central Oregon Fire Management Services, but COFMS sent an air attack plane, Type 3 helicopter and several engines to assist, spokeswoman Christie Shaw said.
Adkins said the wind-fanned fire spread down a steep canyon known as the Campbell Grade, near Pelton Dam Road. He said the Warm Springs Hot Shots and a couple engines were surrounding a home at the bottom of the canyon to protect it.
Around 4:15 p.m., Adkins said of the fire, "They seem to be knocking it down. The wind has died down in the last 20 minutes, and it's cooler than it was earlier."
Meanwhile, the Milepost 91 Fire that broke out Thursday near the highway about 15 miles northwest of Warm Springs still stands at 787 acres and is is showing minimal fire behavior and is now 90 percent contained, officials said.