Eastern Oregon wildfires burn 40,000 acres

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by KTVB.COM & Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on July 2, 2013 at 7:36 PM

VALE, Ore. - Firefighters in Eastern Oregon battled hot, dry conditions Tuesday as they coped with three new fires triggered by lightning.

Campers at Owyhee Dam were evacuated Monday night as a precaution.

Two other fires broke out farther south in Malheur County as lightning lit up the sky in a wide area of southeastern Oregon.

"It was quite a show," said fire spokesman Tim Johnson, who was driving from the Applegate in southwestern Oregon to go to work Tuesday morning on the fire near Owyhee Dam.

It wasn't immediately threatening infrastructure or power lines, he said. The dam provides irrigation water and hydropower.

Up to a dozen people and the Lake Owyhee State Park staff left campgrounds along its reservoir, and sheriff's deputies advised campers below the dam to leave as well. Undersheriff Travis Johnson said he didn't know how many campers were in the canyon.

At one point, he said, the fire jumped the river, which is 20 feet to 30 feet wide below the dam.

The fire area was estimated at 40,000 acres, or 47 square miles, Johnson said.

The National Weather Service predicted temperatures would be several degrees above 100 in the region Tuesday afternoon, with scattered storms and thunderstorms bringing gusty winds.

The two small fires ignited by lightning Monday were in brush and grass in the thinly populated region west of Jordan Valley. The fire area sizes were estimated early Monday at 4 square miles each.

A fourth major, lightning-caused fire in Malheur County was north of U.S. 20 roughly midway between Ontario and Burns in an area of about 7 square miles, or 4,500 acres.

It started Sunday night, and firefighters said they had established lines around about a quarter of the fire area.

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