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New mapping puts SE Oregon wildfires at 24,000 acres


Firefighters have made great success toward containing the Juntura Complex of three lightning-sparked wildfires in southeast Oregon, but better mapping, aided by aircraft and on the ground technology, has increased their overall size to 24,301 acres, officials said late Tuesday.

After aerial mapping, the size of the Simmons Gulch fire has increased to 11,362 acres. Containment is approximately 60%. This fire is located on the south side of Highway 20, roughly 30 miles west of Vale and 20 miles east of Juntura. Crews continue to monitor hot spots and work on the perimeter of the fire area.

The Sheep Rock fire has increased to 12,783 acres and is 50% contained. This fire is six miles south of Juntura along the Shumway Road. On Monday, the fire crossed the road but was caught by crews. It is burning on both sides of the Malheur River.

The Rooster Comb fire is approximately 156 acres and is 95% contained. It is located southeast of the Easterday Reservoir.

Cool and moist conditions this spring have produced heavier than normal fuel loads in the form of dense, continuous grasses that carry fire rapidly across the landscape. Temperatures about 10 degrees below average, little wind, and cloud cover through much of Tuesday reduced fire behavior on most perimeters, officials said.

Where needed, hot spots were doused with retardant applied by Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and buckets of water dropped by helicopters, allowing crews and ground equipment opportunity to improve containment lines.

While the fires cool and are being contained, there is still a risk for re-ignition of remaining unburned fuel, which could spread quickly because the local grasses and brush are extremely dry.

Management objectives include providing for public and firefighter safety as we work to protect forage for livestock and habitat for sage grouse by minimizing the area that is burned.

Over the next few days, as containment progresses, many of the local firefighters and equipment operators who provided initial attack and sustained effort to contain these fires will be relieved to rest and return to initial attack duties or their regular lives.


Three Fires:

Simmons Gulch: 11,362 acres, 60% contained
Sheep Rock: 12,783 acres, 50% contained
Rooster Comb: 156 acres, 95% contained

Location: West of Vale, Oregon and south of State Highway 20

Hazards: Heavier than normal fuel loads contribute to rapid rate of spread
Values at Risk: Rangelands, sage grouse habitat

Cause: Lightning

Containment: Complex 51%

Resources Committed or Available:
5 Type I Crews
6 Type II Crews
20 Engines
4 Dozers
3 Water Tenders
1 Grader
Personnel: 431

Road Closures No road closures in place at this time. Be aware of fire traffic, especially in the vicinity of Vale and Juntura.

Sunday thunderstorms peppered Eastern Oregon with numerous lightning strikes, sparking several wildfires that grew large quickly,

Get updates at the fires’ InciWeb page:

Fire suppression personnel do not expect weather to complicate suppression efforts for the Juntura Complex today. However, lightning in Baker County may frustrate suppression efforts at the Durkee Complex.

The Durkee Complex in Baker County has expanded to take on new fires, including the Manning Creek and Welch Reservoir Fires. However, most fires in the complex, including the Estrada, Pedro and China fires are all contained. The Trail Creek and Welch Reservoir fires are likely going to be contained by this evening. Manning Creek is expected to be contained by tomorrow night.

The Durkee Complex is began approximately four miles northeast of Durkee and began with lightning activity on Friday evening, with more fires being sparked by subsequent lightning activity over the weekend. The total size of the Durkee Complex is estimated at 850 acres.

“Crews put in lots of hard work yesterday to secure fire perimeters,” said Vale District Fuels Technician Justin Robinson, who is providing support at the Durkee Complex. “We have a lot of work still to do, but if the weather holds out, we’re unlikely to see these current fires spread any further.”

BLM and contracted resources are on site at the Durkee Complex, contributing to the suppression effort. Resources include engines, hand crews and aerial assets.

Another fire near the Durkee Complex, approximately 12 miles east of Durkee is being called the Twin Trees Fire. The Twin Trees Fire is estimated to be three acres in size, and is burning in steep, rugged terrain that is extremely difficult to access, even for hand crews.

Vale helitack and smokejumpers have been diverted from other fires to respond. Fire suppression personnel on the Durkee Complex credit support from the Burnt River RFPA and Oregon Department of Forestry with the success in fire suppression so far on the Durkee Complex. In particular, an ODF Type 2 helicopter has provided much needed aerial support which allowed for BLM aerial resources to be diverted to the Twin Trees Fire, where only aerial resources are able to access.

If you suspect a wildfire or see smoke, report it to the Vale BLM Dispatch Center at 541-473-6295.

Latest on Oregon’s wildfires at:

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