(Update: Saturday evening update on fires north of Madras, NW of Shaniko)
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A bit of welcome rain fell Saturday as crews made strong progress on two lightning-sparked fires north of Madras that have burned about 2,800 acres, while others to the east tackled a 140-acre blaze on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected land south of Fossil.
The Deep Creek fire started on Thursday afternoon as lightning hit the area and is located 21 miles north of Madras. Growth on the northwest edge brought the fire to 2,010 acres Saturday, as containment grew to 23%.
The Johnson Ridge Fire, nine miles northwest of Shaniko, was reported early Friday morning and by late Saturday was 789 acres and 90% contained.
A small amount of precipitation came through the fire area Saturday and helped firefighting efforts to secure the fire perimeters, which increased containment.
A Type 3 helicopter continued to support ground crews with bucket work, providing water to remote pockets of trees and brush, officials said in a Saturday evening update. Hand and engine crews worked around the fire's edge, mopping up and patrolling established bulldozer lines, ensuring the black edges of the fire are cold to the touch.
Crews will continue to work the fire for the coming days. Rocky, rough terrain on parts of the Deep Creek Fire have challenged firefighters, who will continue to make problematic tree stringers and thicker fuels a priority. Firefighters will also ensure all fire edges are secure, in case high winds come in with anticipated storm systems.
A fire camp for the two fires has been established at Madras Elementary School. There are 135 personnel staffing the fires. The BLM Prineville District and Bakeoven/Shaniko Rural Fire Protection Association continued to work in unified command on the fire.
"We ask communities of Central Oregon and visitors to continue to be vigilant about fire prevention," the update stated. "No campfires are allowed anywhere in Central Oregon, and be aware of parking or driving on dry grass. The precipitation has been refreshing, but many areas received minimal moisture, and even those areas with moderate amounts will dry very quickly! Central Oregon remains in extreme drought, leading to continued extreme fire danger."
For current wildland fire information, the public can visit centraloregonfire.org or follow fire information on Twitter @CentralORfire.
FIREFIGHTERS RESPONDED TO SEVERAL LIGHTNING FIRES YESTERDAY AROUND JOHN DAY
News Release from Oregon Dept. of Forestry
Posted on FlashAlert: July 31st, 2021 5:45 PM
JOHN DAY, Ore. – Firefighters from the Oregon Department of Forestry’s John Day Unit responded to several lightning fires Friday and Friday night. These fires are holdover fires from thunderstorms which passed through on Thursday.
The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of Central and Eastern Oregon beginning this afternoon for abundant lightning in combination with critically dry fuels. These thunderstorms may come with rain, however the precipitation will not significantly reduce wildfire danger.
The 140-acre Cottonwood Creek Fire was reported midday Friday, burning five miles south of Fossil. Resources from Wheeler County Fire and Rescue assisted ODF firefighters in initial attack of the incident. By late evening, firefighters had completed construction of dozer line around the perimeter of the fire. Air tankers and helicopters were used to cool the fire and keep the fire within the fireline, allowing firefighters on the ground to strengthen the fireline and widen the “cold, black.”
Throughout the night, firefighters were challenged by embers from burning trees and hot rolling material igniting spot fires outside the line in steep terrain and heavy fuels. Firefighters successfully stopped these spot fires, minimizing fire growth.
Increasing wind and warm temperatures this afternoon has increased fire behavior within the perimeter. A Type 3 organization from ODF’s Central Oregon District, led by Incident Commander Chris Cook, is managing the fire today. Resources include five hand crews, 11 wildland engines, a bulldozer and additional overhead. Local aircraft are available as needed to support the suppression efforts.
Five additional lightning-sparked fires within the John Day Unit were controlled at less than an acre. Resources from Burns District Bureau of Land Management, Umatilla National Forest, and Malheur National Forest were critical in stopping the spread of these fires. The cause of one new fire start from early this morning remains under investigation.
A Regulated-Use Closure is in effect for the Central Oregon District to reduce human caused fires. The closure restricts mowing of dried grass, cutting and grinding of metal, and chainsaw use between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. as well as prohibiting campfires, cooking fires and warming fires. The full proclamation and restrictions are available at https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/PFR.html. Industrial operations on forestland within the Central Oregon District also have restrictions in place. Details for these activities are found at https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/IFPL.html.
Preventing human caused fires allows firefighters to focus suppression effort on fires started by lightning. These focused activities result in smaller fires with less damage to natural resources and communities and fewer impacts to air quality.
For additional information on ODF’s Central Oregon District, including contact information and unit offices, please visit www.ODFcentraloregon.com.