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Box Springs Fire now fully contained

By John Hendricks
Barney Lerten
Published On: Jul 14 2013 09:44:28 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 19 2013 11:50:57 PM CDT
Box Springs Fire aerial ODF

Oregon Dept. of Forestry

Box Springs Fire southeast of Ashwood has burned about 500 acres, but growth slowed Tuesday, when this aerial photo was taken

PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

Nearly a week after it began, the Box Springs Fire, 25 miles northeast of Prineville, has been declared fully contained after burning 470 acres, official said Friday night.

Crews completed a line around the fire Tuesday, and no smoke was visible in the area Wednesday, according to the agency.

The major progress on the fire lines was a good thing, since officials said water sources in the area were becoming scarce and they were having to truck water in over longer distances.

Fortunately, dry lightning predicted for the area Tuesday failed to materialize, Nichols said, allowing ODF and private contract crews, assisted by the Forest Service, to focus on dousing hot spots and shoring up lines around the blaze.

However, Jeree Mills, a spokeswoman for the federal fire center in Portland, says 862 lightning strikes were recorded overnight Tuesday-Wednesday in Oregon, many in the Blue and Wallowa mountains. It can take hours and days for fires to flare from such a barrage.

Meanwhile, a new blaze, dubbed the Military Fire, burned about 10 acres Wednesday afternoon and closed Hwy. 97, about 16 miles south of Chemult and 45 miles north of Klamath Falls.

ODOT and OSP closed the highway for about two hours and was continuing to use pilot cars to get two-way traffic by the fire until Wednesday night, when the road was fully reopened.

Crews from ODF, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management teamed up to contain the fire, the cause of which is under investigation.

Earlier Tuesday, a small, roughly quarter-acre fire was tackled near the South Loop campgrounds at La Pine State Park.

The smoke was spotted by fire lookouts around 10:45 a.m. and within an hour, the park entrance was closed and some campers were being warned they might have to leave.

However, the fire was moving slowly in light brush and trees, thanks to light winds. And crews had it doused and were in mop-up stage and releasing engines by early afternoon.

As for the Box Springs Fire, the Oregon Department of Forestry mobilized Incident Management Team #3 Command and General Staff (Dan Thorpe Incident Commander) and a few key overhead positions, to the blaze.

Officials said the fire's growth slowed Tuesday, allowing crest to get a line around its perimeter by the afternoon. The increase in acreage was due to better mapping, they said.

The fire had stayed active Monday, with flames spotting 100 yards ahead of the main fire. It's burning on state-protected private forestland, a mix of juniper, pine and sagebrush about 20 miles southeast of Ashwood.

Winds and a change in barometric pressure sent smoke from the fire south into Prineville, primarily the east side of town,. around 5 p.m. Monday, said ODF spokesman Rod Nichols. The smoke thinned and visibility improved Tuesday morning.

"If the smoke starts settling again, we ask the public to be cautious about driving," said ODF's Tracy Wrolson.

A red flag warning that was in effect Tuesday as canceled in Central Oregon early Wednesday, though it remained in effect for some areas of NE Oregon and SE Washington.

The dark clouds that built up in Central Oregon at midday Tuesday dissipated later in the afternoon.

Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch officials in Prineville said the area had no new lightning strikes as feared Tuesday, though there were strikes to the north and east of the region.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland said there were 238 total personnel at the Box Springs Fire as of Tuesday.

Smoke intrusions from a wildfire are typically more intense in the evening and early morning hours.

Box Springs is the largest wildfire in Central Oregon so far this season and one of several fires sparked by dry lightning that moved through the area Saturday.

Air tankers again worked dropping retardant on the fire throughout the day Monday. It was spotted by the lookout on Stephenson Mountain around 11:15 Sunday morning, growing quickly in private timber lands of mixed juniper, pine and sagebrush amid high winds and dry conditions.

By late Sunday afternoon, three air tankers, three helicopters, three fire engines, the Prineville Hotshots and a crew of six smoke jumpers were working to get the fire under control.

On Sunday, the fire was spotting ahead of itself, making it a challenge for crews as it put up a tall smoke plume visible from Prineville some 25 miles away and over a wide area.

Officials said the region experienced dry lightning Saturday night, with 169 strikes hitting the ground.

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