A wildfire apparently sparked by Saturday's thunderstorms grew to nearly 1,700 acres north of Madras Sunday and prompted closure of Highway 97 in both directions for about four hours, officials said.
The Lexsfall Fire, as it's been labeled, broke out on rangeland not in any fire protection district late Saturday in the Seattle Flat/Trout Creek area and was staffed by two BLM units Saturday night.
By Sunday afternoon, six three-person BLM engine crews were battling to control the blaze, along with a water-dropping helicopter and water tenders from Jefferson County Fire District No. 1, said Valerie Reed at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville.
Strong winds, smoke and low visibility prompted Oregon State Police and ODOT to first shut one lane, then close the highway around 14 miles north of Madras at about 1:30 p.m., said ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy.
The incident commander said around 5:30 p.m. that the highway was reopening, Reed said, and that was evident on ODOT Trip Check. Any more smoky conditions might lead to use of a pilot car for travelers, she said.
A helicopter using GPS flew over the fire and figured its size at 1,680 acres. The fire was 60 percent contained, Reed said, and they don't expect any further growth, and also expect to contain it in a couple of days, she said.
There were reports of another fire about 3-4 miles north of the large one on private land, but Reed had little information and said the landowner was taking care of it.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County fire crews were called out shortly before 6 p.m. to a report of a large haystack on fire off NW Elm Lane, north of Madras, threatening a small nearby structure.
Thunderstorms also prompted other reports of fire or smoke Saturday night, but Reed said none could be found when crews scouted for them, likely in part due to heavy rain that accompanied some storms.
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