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Field burn gets out of control

A stubble-field burn in Crook County threatens two structures on Wednesday and burns nearly 200 acres

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Smoke provides an eerie backdrop for this scene on Wednesday, as an agriculture burn gets dangerously close to structures. As shown here, the fire came right up to the side of the road, beyond the fence by this wheel line.

An agriculture field burn got out of control Wednesday afternoon and burned approximately 60 acres beyond the prescribed boundaries north of Prineville on McKay Road.
   According to Crook County Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Matt Smith, the call came in at approximately 3:30 p.m., and four CCFR engines responded, in addition to the State Department of Forestry, the Bureau of Land Management, and staff from the Ochoco National Forest Service.
   Smith said that although there were two structures threatened by the fire, no buildings were lost and no injuries were sustained. Portions of McKay were briefly closed due to smoke, and no homes were evacuated. The fire burned a total of 160 acres.
    A medical incident that came across the scanner simultaneously was at the same residence as one of those threatened structures. It is unknown whether there was any relationship between the incident and the fire.
   Both the medical incident and the fire are under investigation.
   “We’re not sure what happened,” said Smith of the fire. “It was an unreported agricultural burn that was going on in the area. Whether or not that is what sparked the fire is under investigation.”
   Smith said that there were straw bales and wheel lines in a field that burned that was not part of the prescribed area. The fire came right up to McKay Road in a couple of places, and some hot spots were still smoldering at 4 p.m. This portion of the fire came close to a couple of structures, and was only the road’s width away from several other homes nearby.
   “That field was not supposed to burn, and that is why it had the wheel lines in it,” he said. “We’re investigating this morning what caught that field on fire. There were many controlled stubble-field burns in the area,” added Smith.
   Wildfire risk remains high to extreme throughout the Central Oregon area. The weather forecast remains dry and warm through this weekend. The forecast does not yet predict what fire managers consider a “season-ending event” from the National Weather Service. A season-ending event would include sustained, wetting rain, and cooler temperatures.
   Fire restrictions remain in place for Central Oregon. These include campfire and smoking restrictions. As hunters and other recreational users enter public and private lands, all are reminded to be aware of local fire regulations.
   A Fire Use Information line is available at 1-800-523-4737. The recording includes information for Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management lands.