Weary Jefferson County Fire District crews continued their work on several fronts Wednesday, doing mop-up and burnout work on two wildfires near Madras that charred hundreds of acres and also helping douse a wildfire sparked by a car fire near Highway 26 on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
The Belmont Fire west of Madras burned 100-plus acres late Tuesday, but crews got a line built around it that night and the lines held Wednesday, said Deputy Fire Chief Tom Jaca.
Meanwhile, there were a few flare-ups on the Collins Fire, northeast of Madras, which burned 242 acres. Flames seen in the area were from burnout operations, to take out unburned fuels before they could push the fire over the lines, he said.
Around 6 p.m., a car fire at the base of the Warm Springs grade on Pelton Dam Road near Highway 26 ignited a wildfire that burned about 2 1/2 acres, Jaca said.
That fire threatened a house and outbuilding before Jefferson County and Bureau of Indian Affairs crews got a handle on it, he said. A Pacific Power crew was called out to repair a fire-damaged power pole.
As for the wind-whipped Collins Fire that raced through acre after acre north of Madras Tuesday night, homeowners said the only thing between the flames and their homes nestled on hilltops in every direction was a makeshift fire line dug by alert farmers on tractors.
"My mom came over here because we were out of town for a little bit and she said it was coming fast," Teresa Clark, who lives nearby, said Wednesday.
Jefferson County firefighters and BLM crews were on scene about 20 minutes after the blaze ignited. There was no word Wednesday on the cause.
Clark said her neighbors who took action against the wildfire saved them for the damage the fire could have done.
"He went all the way around the house, and the fire line stopped it from going over there," said Clark. "If it went out here, it could have crossed and went over to the neighbors here and on up -- and who knows."
For hours, thick smoke shot into the sky. It spread over much of Central Oregon. What used to be a valley of green is now charred black, and Wednesday, nearby homeowners were still reeling after realizing how quickly the fire spread.
"It was hitting the sagebrush, and when it hit that juniper, it just really went up in the air," said Kenneth Taylor, who lives near where the fire started.
The only residents who weren't concerned with the fast moving flames were one of the resident's horses. As the flames crept closer to them, a family of horses kept their cool.
"I thought they'd stampede or something, but they just stayed in the green and just moseyed around," said Taylor.
It's easy for homeowners to make light of the fire, now that it's contained, no longer threatening their homes or livestock. But less than 24 hours earlier, red-hot flames burned a little too close for comfort.
"Who knows what it would have done?" said Clark.