Wildfire closes Hwy 26 east of Prineville

MITCHELL, Ore. - Fires burning in Central Oregon closed Highway 26 between Prineville and John Day on Tuesday.

The road remained closed Wednesday, with no time frame for when it might reopen, the Oregon DOT said.

"Due to hazardous debris and weather, there is no current estimate time for opening," the agency said on

The Waterman Complex of fires grew from an estimated 2,320 acres Tuesday to more than 4,300 acres on Wednesday, the result of both better mapping via infrared technology and continued burning.

The fires forced the closure of Oregon Highway 26 at Ochoco Summit and Mitchell.

Motorists attempt to travel between Redmond and John Day will either need to wait or take a lengthy detour.

The lightning-caused fires continued to burn out of control as of Wednesday morning near the town of Mitchell. An estimated 20 structures are threatened by the flames.

Stage 2 evacuations on a 3-stage Ready, Set, Go scale were issued Monday night in the West Branch Road area near Mitchell.That evacuation order has been reduced to State 1, the lowest level.

The Crystal Springs Campground on the Ochoco National Forest was also evacuated Monday night.

Northwest fire managers said more firefighters are headed to the fire, which was detected Monday. As of Tuesday morning, 56 people were fighting the fires.

The complex is made up of three main fires.

The Baily Butte Fire, reported burning in timber, is located approximately 10 miles west of of Mitchell. Size of the fire is now mapped at 2,105 acres, zero percent contained as of Wednesday.

The Toney Butte Fire is burning in grass, brush, juniper, sage and timber approximately 6 miles southwest of the town of Spray. Size is estimated at 2,194 acres, zero percent contained.

The Junction Springs Fire is 20 acres, zero percent contained.