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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Ranchers came together with heavy equipment to protect their homes and livestock from a series of fires in central Oregon.

Lightning sparked two fires last week that have combined to burn 179 square miles (464 sq kilometers) of heavy grass, sage and juniper, the Capital Press reported .

Ranchers evacuated cattle and used their bulldozers and equipment to dig fire breaks.

“All the ranches, we took pretty much everything we had,” said Joe Pechanec, the cow boss for R2 Ranch. “It was really kind of heartfelt.”

As many as 50 volunteers, including ranchers, friends and family members, along with firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management have joined the effort, Pechanec said.

Firefighters expect to have both fires contained by July 6.

“I think we’re going to be OK,” Pechanec said.

The fires have scorched all 18 square miles (47 square kilometers) of R2 Ranch’s Bureau of Land Management range along with about 4 square miles (10 sq. kilometers) of private grassland owned by Robert Pamplin.

Ranchers won’t be able to let their animals graze on the affected land for two years, meaning they will have to buy hay to supplement feeding.

Pechanec estimated he may lose up to $30,000 this year on his hay costs.

BLM staff will work with ranchers to accommodate grazing needs and discuss appropriate land management, said Justin Rodgers, a rangeland management specialist for the BLM in Prineville.


Information from: Capital Press,