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Hot, dry weather encouraging western wildfires

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 15, 2014 at 1:54 am •  Published: July 15, 2014
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A southern Oregon wildfire has destroyed six homes and 14 other buildings, and dozens of additional blazes ignited after thousands of lightning strikes lashed the state.

In central Oregon, a wildfire at the confluence of the Ochoco National Forest and ranchland has prompted the evacuation of numerous campgrounds and nearly a dozen ranch homes, Wheeler County Sheriff Chris Humphreys said Monday night. Local fire departments were protecting homes.

The Bailey Butte fire also temporarily closed a 2-mile section of U.S. Highway 26 about 13 miles west of Mitchell, the Oregon Transportation Department said.

The destructive Moccasin Hill fire — named for a longstanding subdivision — began Sunday near the ranching town of Sprague River, about 25 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, fire spokeswoman Erica Hupp said Monday. Many residents keep horses and cattle on plots of 3 to 5 acres, and neighbors have been stepping in to shelter both stock and pets, she said.

The blaze has burned across about 4 square miles, fire officials said, and caused more than 100 people to evacuate before the threat subsided and many returned home.

Another fire spokeswoman, Tina O'Donnell, said 231 structures remained threatened Monday and one minor injury was reported. She did not know if the injury was suffered by a resident or a firefighter.

Walter "Butch" Browning, who operates a general store in Sprague River, said the flames reached the driveway at his home Sunday afternoon, forcing his wife to "get out of there" with a computer, a change of clothes, medications and the dogs. The wind changed direction, he said, sparing his place. He slept in his own bed, confident there were enough firefighters between his house and the blaze that has left burning stumps.

Wildfires are an annual concern for the community, Browning said. He has been evacuated at least four times in his 22 years on the property, and once lost a home, he said.

"I had two houses at one time; I have one now. I'm down to my last house," he quipped. "It's the price you pay for living in paradise, I guess."

A shelter for displaced residents has been set up at the Sprague River Community Center. Only one person spent the night, but more people filtered in Monday to take advantage of food and other services, said Julie Miller, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Cascades Region.

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