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Cooler temperatures, calmer winds slow growth of 4,000-acre wildfire in NE Oregon

Joseph Canyon Fire burns Sunday in NE Oregon, SE Washington
Oregon Dept. of Forestry
Joseph Canyon Fire burns Sunday in NE Oregon, SE Washington

(Update: Fire's growth slowed; second nearby fire grows to 1,600 acres)

JOSEPH, Ore. (KTVZ) – Cooler temperatures and moderate winds Sunday slowed the growth of the Joseph Canyon Fire in northeast Oregon, estimated at 4,000 acres with no containment Monday morning, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported.

Extreme winds on Saturday challenged air resources battling the fire, located on the border of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington, officials said Sunday, but also aided the suppression effort by pushing the active fire line back onto itself in some areas.

The Joseph Canyon Fire was one of several blazes sparked by an overnight lightning storm Thursday and Friday. It was reported Friday morning by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, burning in steep, rugged terrain in northern Wallowa County.

The blaze began on Vale Bureau of Land Management lands, but soon crossed over onto Washington state lands protected by Oregon Department of Forestry, about 23 miles southwest of Lewiston, Idaho.

By Monday morning, more than 200 firefighters were battling the blaze. Officials hope they can declare containment by June 14.

You can find a map, photos and more details on the fire's InciWeb page.

A second fire, Dry Creek, was burning just to the east of the larger blaze, estimated at 1,600 acres by Monday morning, all on on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

“This is probably one of the most difficult places to fight fire in Oregon,” said Matt Howard, deputy agency administrator for the Oregon Department of Forestry. “Joseph Canyon is known for its extreme terrain, communications challenges and natural hazards.”

The Northwest 7 Type 2 Incident Management Team shadowed the interagency Blue Mountain Type 3 Incident Management Team Sunday and assumed command of the Joseph Canyon Fire Monday.

Engine crews on Saturday were able to establish and hold a line along 10 miles of roadway bordering the east side of Cottonwood Creek. They worked Sunday to reinforce the line and contain any slop-overs (areas where the fire has crossed the line).

Fire personnel from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Vale Bureau of Land Management and Washington Department of Natural Resources worked cooperatively to protect public and private lands affected by the fire.

Several ranchers and permittees were moving cattle out of the fire zone to protect the livestock and allow firefighters unrestricted access into and around the fire footprint.

“The private landowners involved are no stranger to fire,” Howard said. “We have good communication with them and, given the circumstances, they are happy with the progress that has been made in battling this wildfire.”

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