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Lightning fires scorch nearly 10,000 acres

Estimated 1,200 strikes
Smoke continues to hover over the north end of Jefferson County this week after an estimated 1,200 lightning strikes Saturday evening set numerous fires in northeastern Jefferson County.
   By Tuesday afternoon, the Baker Canyon Fire was believed to have grown to about 8,000 acres, and the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville was sending two Bureau of Land Management engines and two command vehicles and two U.S. Forest Service helicopters to combat the fire.
   "It's on the west side of Highway 97 and got onto BLM land last night," said Jada Altman, assistant Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center manager. "We're in the process of sending folks up there to take action."
   Altman estimated that the fire, which has been burning on private property, is about 8 to 10 miles north of the Lexsfall Fire, which also started Saturday, and burned 1,680 acres.
   "The Lexsfall Fire is contained at this time," she said Tuesday. "Nobody is on it currently."
   Jefferson County Fire Marshal Tom Jaca said that the Lexsfall Fire originated on private property outside of any protection districts -- about six miles north and east of Madras.
   "The initial fire burned toward Trout Creek Campground," he said. "BLM and Jefferson County Fire District did an initial attack on Saturday, but were unable to stop the fire. Once it got into the Trout Creek area, that's when BLM brought additional resources in."
   On Sunday, fires spread toward the east and on private property. "We had one unit on it," said Jaca, noting that the fire department provided mutual aid. "We go out and try to assist where and when we can."
   "Sunday, we were requested to supply water for fighting fire," he said. "We set up a portable water tank with 3,000 gallons at Lyle Gap, and shuttled water with a tender to that."
   Doug Johnson, who farms about 25 miles northeast of Madras, said Tuesday that farmers were fighting fires with Caterpillars, and the fire was currently west of his property, across Highway 97.
   "There must have been lightning strikes and fires are all over the place," he said. "They're going in all directions. There are lots of neighbors with cats."
   Johnson, who was heading back out to the fires, said they had burned from U.S. Highway 97 at Lyle Gap up to the top of Cow Canyon and the South Junction Road.
   Most of the fires were on private property, he said, with some on BLM property, and PGE's property at Trout Creek Ranch.
   "Conditions are just right for fires," warned Jaca. "People need to use precautions."