Fire grows to 70.1 square miles

By Don Iler Observer Intern July 11, 2012 01:44 pm

Fire season has begun in Eastern Oregon.

With five fires now reported, several highways were temporarily shut down in Southeast Oregon on Tuesday and today, and residents were asked to evacuate as crews worked to contain fires.

The Miller Homestead fire located about 12 miles west of Frenchglen on the west slope of Steens Mountain, is burning 70.1 square miles. This morning, officials  issued an evacuation notice to residents in the Frenchglen area soon after Highway 205 was closed about one mile north of Frenchglen between mileposts 58 and 66.

The fire destroyed a previously abandoned structure and firefighters continue to be challenged by the rocky terrain and erratic winds. Burnout operations have been hampered by cattle in between the fire and roads.


The largest fire, the Longdraw fire, is burning approximately 6 miles west of Basque, and shut down U.S. Highway 95 for most of Monday and Tuesday. The road is currently open, with cars being led through the fire by pilot vehicles. 

The Oregon Department of Transportation tells travelers to expect delays of 20 minutes to two hours and recommends to use another route. 

The fire is currently burning 453 square miles. It is burning on both sides of Highway 95. Firefighters have flanked the fire on the westside of the road, with the majority of the fire located on the east side of the highway.

Two fires are also burning in Grant County and another in Malheur. The Briley Mountain fire north of Monument is burning at 650 acres. 

The Steward Ditch II fire is located east of Dayville and is burning at 230 acres and is 75 percent contained. The Bonita Complex located 20 miles northwest of Westfall is 23 square miles and 10 percent contained.

The apparent cause of all the fires is from lightning.