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Lightning-caused fire burns over 240 acres to east of Madras

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Box Springs Fire doubled on Monday to 240 acres, but was stable and 50 percent contained by Wednesday morning.The Box Springs Fire, located about 20 miles east of Madras, blew up Monday, doubling from 120 acres to 240 acres by Tuesday. The fire was set off by a dry lightning storm that passed through Central Oregon on Saturday.

The lightning-caused fire, which was reported at 11:15 a.m. July 14, grew quickly, due to high winds and dry conditions. On Monday, smoke from the fire spilled into the Prineville area.

The fire, burning on private timber lands in juniper, pine and sage, was 50 percent contained on Wednesday morning, and fully encompassed by a fire line. An incident command team from the Oregon Department of Forestry assumed control of the fire Tuesday, and set up a fire camp on the north end of the Ochoco National Forest to provide easier access to the fire, which is in a remote location in Jefferson County.

According to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center, fire managers and personnel were on high alert for thunderstorms that were expected to pass through the area on Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Air tankers and helicopters are assisting firefighters, despite smoky conditions which hampered their efforts at times.

In addition to the Box Springs Fire, firefighters responded to a handful of other small fires also reported on Sunday, the largest of which was about eight acres. Fire 292, located in the Three Sisters Wilderness, approximately 1 1/2 miles north of Devils Lake off the Cascade Lakes Highway, remains in monitor status.

The cause of the fire, which was reported shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday by the public, is under investigation. Signs have been posted at the South Sister Trailhead, and on the trail at the fire location to make the public aware.

Fire officials reminded the public to be aware of the hot, dry conditions, in order to prevent new, human-caused fires.

"Use caution when recreating on public lands, never leave a campfire unattended, and ensure it is completely out before leaving," the dispatch center noted. "It is also recommended that you call ahead to find out if there are fire restrictions in the specific area in which you plan to recreate."

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