The cause of the fires, along U.S. Highway 97, is still under investigation. Homes protected.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Wildfire flames whip around a corner next to U.S. Highway 97, north of Madras.Two wildfires, burning some six miles north of Madras along U.S. Highway 97, at 4 p.m., Tuesday, July 25, spread through sagebrush and dry grass, as firefighters worked to protect area homes.

The cause of the fires is under investigation, but one 450-acre fire began near milepost 87, on private land owned by the R2 Ranch. The second 1,500 fire was on Crooked River National Grassland, south of milepost 87, according to information from Susan Garner with the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center.

TONY AHERN/MADRAS PIONEER - A plane drops fire retandant between the fire and a home on the grassland, north of Madras.Although flames could be seen licking the highway, U.S. 97 traffic was still let through, and several people could be seen parked on the side of the highway watching the dramatic scene.

Along with firefighting crews, three heavy air tankers, two single-engine air tankers, one helicopter, eight fire engines, and two bulldozers responded to fight the flames.

The fire, now called the Emerson Fire, reportedly grew to 5,000 acres and was still being fought Wednesday morning.

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