Two fires that started July 25, about six miles northeast of Madras, merged and are continuing to grow.

LINDA LARSON - A large aircraft drops fire retardant on the Emerson Fire.The Emerson Fire, burning approximately six miles northeast of Madras, continued to grow from its start Tuesday, July 25, and was estimated to be 10,600 acres by noon Wednesday.

Firefighters were able to make good progress through the evening utilizing existing roads and dozers to put in fire line. The fire was 40 percent contained Wednesday afternoon.

The fire was called in around 4 p.m. on July 25, when two spot fires were located off U.S. Highway 97, about one-half mile from the road, near milepost 84. The Jefferson County Fire Department reported that one of the two was definitely human-caused, since the soure was a firework.

The Central Oregon Type 3 team assumed command of the incident Wednesday morning. Resources on the scene include several engines, two dozers, four contact crews and two hot shot crews, one water tender and miscellaneous overhead. Aerial resources will be available as needed today, and more resources and crews have been ordered. The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Jefferson County Rural Fire District are working together to contain this incident.

Crews will be working to construct fireline to contain and secure the perimeter. The fire is burning in a mix of grass and brush on private land and the Crooked River National Grassland. Challenges Wednesday include high temperatures, afternoon wind and storms, powerlines and steep terrain. The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for "abundant lightning and gusty outflow winds," which was expected to be in effect from 1-11 p.m. Wednesday.

No homes were reported to be threatened. The highway remains open; however motorists should use caution due to fire suppression vehicles and crews working in the area. If smoke affects visibility, motorists should reduce speed and turn on headlights.

As the peak of fire season nears, fire officials want to remind the public that hot and dry weather conditions have created extreme fire conditions throughout Central Oregon. Fire restrictions are now in place on public lands, limiting campfires to only designated campgrounds. The public is asked to avoid driving or parking over dry grass. Fireworks and exploding targets are always illegal on public lands.

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