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Power lines spark fire behind Grizzly Peak

Fire crews are 'cautiously optimistic' about reining in the East Antelope fire

With attacks on the ground and from the sky, crews hammered a 200-acre wildfire that sprang up behind Grizzly Peak Tuesday afternoon.

With conditions the way they are and the potential for fire spread, we threw everything we had at it, said Dennis Turco, fire prevention specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Burning in remote forestlands off East Antelope Road, the fire posed no threat to homes late Tuesday. But the looming column of smoke still had residents worried.

My concern is when the wind shifts at night ... When that happens, it could come straight down the canyon, said Bob Doke, an East Antelope Road resident.

Doke's wife, Maria, pointed out that with only one road into the area that dead-ends behind Grizzly Peak, they're in a more precarious position than Illinois Valley residents living in the shadow of the Biscuit fire.

But fire crews were cautiously optimistic about their chances of reining in the East Antelope fire, Turco said.

Five planes and three helicopters dumped fire retardant and water onto the flames. The helicopters had been sent from the 27,000-acre Timbered Rock fire ' now contained, Turco said. Approximately 160 firefighters with six bulldozers, six engines and three water-hauling trucks made an early stand against the blaze.

The fire leapt to life around 2:50 p.m. when tree limbs rubbed against power lines, causing sparks to ignite dry brush, Turco said. With the high temperature and low humidity level, the fire wouldn't have smoldered for long, he added.

While the temperature and lack of humidity concerned ODF officials, they didn't expect wind to be a problem. Burning about three to four miles from the nearest home, the fire was moving away from populated areas, Turco said.

Faced with fire in their neck of the woods, the Dokes worriedly watched helicopters circle overhead and waited for news. But the couple was confident in their fire-prevention efforts around their house.

Last year's severe fire season prompted the Dokes to clear dry brush from their 40-acre property. Goats keep the weeds under control.

You don't even see grass around our house, Maria Doke said.

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An air tanker dumps retardant on a 200-acre fire that started on Tuesday behind Grizzly Peak when tree branches rubbed a power line, causing sparks that ignited dry brush. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven