The largest wildfire among a handful sparked by more than 800 lightning strikes that peppered Central Oregon during Monday's thunderstorms expanded fast in Tuesday's winds and has burned about 3,500 acres east of Highway 97 in southern Wasco County, officials said Tuesday.
The Deadman Canyon Fire started on private land and moved onto BLM lands Tuesday afternoon, according to Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.
The fire, which grew dramatically in size Tuesday, was burning in a remote area east of Highway 97 and north of state Hwy. 293, about 3 1/2 miles northeast of the junction of the two highways and more than 20 miles northeast of Madras.
Clark said Wednesday that cooler temperatures overnight had helped the fire lay down, and it was at 10 percent containment.
Due to the fire's location and firefighting traffic, ODOT closed Tuesday night a nine-mile stretch of state Highway 293 (the Antelope Highway), from the junction with Highway 97 east to Antelope. Traffic traveling to Antelope or farther to Fossil was urged to take Highway 218 south from Shaniko. The closure remained in effect Wednesday.
Clark said five structures were lost to the fire, but no residences, all older outbuildings.
Structural protection crews were called in, burning out fuels around the structures to protect them, Clark said.
The fire was burning toward the east and a bit toward the south, Clark said, in juniper, sagebrush and grass, in an area with limited access.
Officials had no estimate of fire containment late Tuesday, but Clark said officials were hoping to make significant progress after temperatures drop and relative humidity rises.
The Deadman Canyon Fire was staffed with two heavy air tankers, three helicopters, two SEAT (single-engine air tanker) planes, one lead plane, air attack, one hotshot crew and several additional hand crews. Also on the fire were nine engines, 10 smokejumpers, rappellers/helitack crew members, one bulldozer and two water tenders.
Fire crews from the Prineville BLM were being assisted by Jefferson County Fire District #1, as well as by many local landowners. A Type III incident management team was set to assume command of the fire Wednesday morning.
Central Oregon received more than 800 lightning strikes from Monday night's storms, and five new wildfires started, mostly small.
In addition to the Deadman Canyon fire, another new blaze in the area had burned about five acres in a wilderness study area near Sutton Mountain, northeast of Prineville.
Several single-tree fires were quickly contained. Firefighters will remain on standby for any additional lightning ?holdover? fires that are reported, Clark said.
Clark said more thunderstorms predicted Tuesday evening would bring the potential for new lightning starts, but NewsChannel 21 Meteorologist Ben Burkel said the atmosphere was a bit more stable, so while there is a chance of a few stray storms the next couple nights, widespread storms were not expected.
With conditions warming on the High Desert, fire officials reminded Central Oregon and visitors to be careful with fire.
"Vegetation is drying quickly, and the lighter fuels like grass and shrubs can be very receptive to an ignition source," Clark said. "Everyone should make sure to extinguish cigarettes inside vehicles and be sure campfires are 'dead out' before leaving a site."