A stray bullet discharged by users of the Burns Butte Shooting Range sparked a fast-moving fire that burned about 150 acres Friday afternoon and threatened nearby homes, authorities said.
Here's a news release issued by the Bureau of Land Management's Tara Martinak late Friday night:
The Shooting Range Fire, located near Switch Canyon just west of the Burns and Hines city limits, gave community residents quite a scare Friday afternoon.
The fire started around 4:00 p.m. from a stray bullet discharged by users at the Burns Butte Shooting Range.
Active fire in dry sagebrush, grass and juniper trees quickly put a large column of black smoke in the air and left homeowners on alert.
Air and engine firefighting resources were quick to respond: a retardant drop from a Single Engine Air Tanker hit the ground within 15 minutes of the initial report and several fire engines were on scene shortly thereafter.
By 7:00 p.m., the Incident Commander on the Shooting Range fire reported a retardant line around the entire perimeter.
Close and consistent communication with the local radio station and a unified command with the Burns Interagency Fire Zone, Harney County and the Burns and Hines Fire Departments kept community members up to date with current fire information, evacuation notices and road closures in the area.
Residents in the Garland Acres subdivision were most immediately threatened, though no structures were lost or damaged. The Hines Logging Road (Forest Service road 47) was closed temporarily and a Level 1 evacuation notice was issued to those closest to the active fire.
A Level 1 evacuation notice is simply the in-person notification of the fire situation – not an emergency alert to pack belongings or leave a residence.
Several fire engines planned to patrol the Shooting Range Fire through the night, checking for hot spots and supporting containment lines around the perimeter. The fire was last estimated around 150 acres.
On the opposite end of the county, the House Creek fire near Mann Lake on the east side of Steens Mountain grew to an estimated 1,500 acres throughout the day Friday.
Due to the difficult terrain, limited access, zero percent containment and the potential for fire spread, the Northwest Type 2 Incident Management Team – Williams – has been assigned to the incident and will assume control of resources and operations on Sunday.
Base camp for the House Creek fire is established at the Mann Lake Ranch. Over 150 firefighters, multiple engines, dozers and air resources are assigned to this fire.
There is noticeable smoke and increased firefighting equipment on roadways in the area. The public is asked to avoid active wildfire areas and nearby recreation sites. The Mann Lake Recreation Site on the east side of Steens Mountain is closed to public access until further notice.
Fire danger is currently rated VERY HIGH and a regulated fire closure is in effect within the Burns Interagency Fire Zone. Campfires are only permitted within designated campgrounds and all off-road driving is prohibited.
The Industrial Fire Precaution Level is a level 3, which prohibits all personal woodcutting and limits commercial woodcutting. Hot and dry conditions are expected over the next several days, with a slight chance of thunderstorms beginning Tuesday. Visitors should use extreme caution when traveling through and recreating in the outdoors this time of year.
Radio station KBNH reported that by evening, Harney County Fire Chief Chris Briels said an air tanker had been making good progress on stopping the fire.
The fire forced Oregon Trail Electric to turn off power to a communication site atop the butte, and backup power to the county's 911 system failed to kick in, hampering emergency communication, the station reported -- a situation made worse by burned telephone lines.