More hot, windy weather challenged firefighters Tuesday on several large rangeland fires in Eastern Oregon, the largest estimated at 50,000 acres after it jumped and closed a highway into Nevada.
The Bureau of Land Management's Vale District reported multiple lightning strikes around 6 p.m. Sunday.
The Long Draw Fire, located about 20 miles south of Burns Junction, grew to an estimated 50,000 acres by Tuesday as erratic winds pushed the fire over control lines and forced the evacuation of Oregon Department of Transportation Basque Station located on U.S. Highway 95, said BLM spokesman Mark Wilkening.
As the fire spread Monday toward the Basque Station facility, crews from control lines surrounding the station used fire to burn the fuels as the main fire approached the facility. The structure was not lost.
The fire did cross the road in several locations, power lines were threatened and the power was turned off between Burns Junction and McDermitt, Nevada, Wilkening said.
A co-owner of the 12-Mile Ranch west of Basque Station told the agricultural publication Capital Press (http://bit.ly/MfKerF) that a dozen of her cattle had been killed, and others would be put down because of burns and smoke inhalation.
ODOT reported Tuesday afternoon that U.S. Highway 95 was closed again between Burns Junction and the Nevada border (mileposts 66 and 121). Earlier, they said travelers should expect delays due to use of pilot cars to guide traffic through the fire-stricken area.
The McDermitt Community Center near the Nevada border was opened for stranded travelers to get out of hot weather Monday. Officials advised travelers to use alternate routes if available.
The public was asked to slow down in the area as emergency fire vehicles and personnel continue to gain control of this fire. Please do not stop along the roadsides to take pictures as this will be a hazard to others traveling the highway.
Watts’s Oregon Interagency Team #4, a Type 2 team, was taking over management of the fire Tuesday, though the road closures delayed its arrival..
Two other large fires were burning Tuesday on the northern portion of the BLM's Vale District. Two fires, the North Ridge Bully Fire and the Iron fire, burned together Monday night, and it's now being called the Iron Fire.
Both fires are in the Bonita area, eight miles southwest of Brogan, Oregon. A Type 2 Team was called in to take over management of these two fires. In the meantime the Vale/Burns Type 3 team will continue to manage the fire until then. Efforts to control the fires were hampered by the high temperatures (over 100 degrees) relative low humidity (single digits) and winds.
The Bonita Fire was at over 6,300 acres Tuesday, and more resources have been ordered to fight the fire. The Iron Fire was at over 8,300 acres and more crews were starting to arrive.
Meanwhile, a brief thunderstorm that swept through the area Sunday afternoon has brought Harney County its first large wildfire of the season.
The lightning-caused Miller Homestead fire, located about 12 miles west of Frenchglen, has grown to 11,600 acres by Tuesday afternoon, burning in grass and brush on Bureau of Land Management-administered land, said BLM spokeswoman Tara Martinak
Heavy, sporadic winds combined with high temperatures and low fuel moisture gave way to over 8,000 additional acres burned Monday, she said.
The increased size and northeast direction of spread brought at least two homes under remote threat from the wildfire. Firefighters from the Burns Interagency Fire Zone moved directly to the structures to provide point protection early Monday evening and a Single Engine Air Tanker from Lakeview assisted.
Burnout operations and direct attack suppression efforts proved successful in the late evening, bringing the fire to 10 percent contained at 11,600 acres.
But one long-abandoned structure was lost on the southeast flank of the fire, while others were protected. Work was planned Tuesday evening to keep securing containment lines around the perimeter.
A Type 3 Incident Management Team from Lakeview on site to assist with operations and logistics.
Keep up with the latest on the Miller Homestead Fire at its new InciWeb site, http://inciweb.org/incident/3003/
Fire danger remains moderate within the Burns Interagency Fire Zone and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level was at Level 2. A regulated fire closure is in effect for the east side of Steens Mountain.