News | Northwest Wildfires

Oregon Rancher Searches For Cattle Lost In Buzzard Complex Wildfire

OPB | July 18, 2014 4:23 p.m. | Updated: July 20, 2014 10:11 a.m.

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A smoke column in the Buzzard Complex Fire, east of Burns, Oregon.

A smoke column in the Buzzard Complex Fire, east of Burns, Oregon.

Tanya Nelson

In Eastern Oregon, ranchers are fighting to protect their animals from the Buzzard Complex Fire, a large range fire burning east of Burns.

Rita Dyer, an information officer with the interagency team fighting the fire, said the fire has burned more than 272,000 acres and has been growing rapidly. “It moved six miles in 45 minutes yesterday,” she said. “The meteorologist we have on site here expected we’d have extreme fire behavior today as well.”

It has consumed vast tracts of federal and private grazing land, including the Drewsy Field Ranch, owned by rancher Bill Wilber’s family. Wilber said earlier this week he was able move about 300 cows and their calves to safety. But the fire was moving quickly and there were many more animals he couldn’t reach.

“It was devastating,” he said.

Now Wilbur is searching for his scattered and wounded herd. He said it’s slow work because his black animals are hard to spot on the blackened landscape.“The ground is still so hot you can’t get on it with a horse,” he said.

Wilbur says the fire killed at least 20 of his cows and calves. He believes other ranchers to his south have lost grazing land and animals, and says most of the fences for miles around have been destroyed.

Several other large fires are burning in central and Eastern Oregon.

The Waterman Complex fire has burned at least 6,020 acres and prompted evacuations near Mitchell, Oregon. A fire information officer said ranchers in the area were moving livestock away from the fire.

The Bridge 99 Complex has burned 6,369 acres west of Sisters, Oregon. The Jefferson County sheriff has issued an evacuation order for private lands along the Metolius river from Allen Springs Campground to Lake Billy Chinook.

The Shaniko Butte wildfire has burned 25,000 acres near the northeast corner of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The fire has reached the Deschutes River in some places and the river is closed to recreational use.

The Pine Creek Complex grass fire has burned 39,000 acres on both sides of the John Day River near Fossil.

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