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US Highway 26 closed by Central Oregon wildfire

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 16, 2014 at 4:59 pm •  Published: July 16, 2014

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A highway through the Ochoco Mountains of central Oregon remained closed by a wildfire Wednesday, but the threat to about 10 scattered homes and ranches eased.

Fire officials said the Bailey Butte fire — part of the Waterman Complex — had burned more than 2,000 acres west of Mitchell and was moving south into the Ochoco National Forest.

A stretch of U.S. Highway 26 remained closed west of Mitchell, but the evacuation notice for homes along West Branch Road was dropped to the lowest level.

Two other fires near Service Creek and Kimberly brought the Waterman Complex to more than 4,000 acres. The three fires started from lightning strikes on Friday and were burning in timber, grass and brush. They were expected to grow in the hot and windy weather.

A Type II Incident Management Team — the second highest level — and 428 people were assigned to fight the fire.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that broke out Sunday in an off-the-grid subdivision near the Klamath County community of Sprague River was more destructive than authorities initially believed.

After the fire ignited in the Moccasin Hill subdivision 4 miles south of Sprague River, officials reported six houses destroyed along with 14 outbuildings — barns, garages, shops and the like. But when fire managers toured the burn area Tuesday, spokeswoman Ashley Lertora said they found 17 residences and 16 outbuildings destroyed.

The cause was under investigation.

Lertora said a containment line was around the 4-square-mile burn area, and crews were working toward its center, putting out hot spots. Some of the 750 people working the fire were expected to be reassigned Wednesday. The fire was expected to be fully contained by Saturday.

Kim McIntyre, co-owner of Whistlers Trading Post in Sprague River, told the Herald and News newspaper that many of the people in Moccasin Hill live off the grid with no electricity or telephone.

Resident David Pool told the newspaper he left the cabin where he lives with his wife and young daughter when he saw the approaching flames were twice as tall as the trees they were burning. His wife and daughter were away. When he returned, the cabin and solar panels were destroyed.

"I could tell that if you would have stood there with a shovel and a hose, even with an airplane dumping water on you, you wouldn't have made it out of there," he said Tuesday. "There was so much fuel, so densely stacked up, I don't think it could have been stopped."


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