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Tuesday update: Fire season strikes

By Tim Trainor

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on June 29, 2015 8:23AM

Last changed on June 30, 2015 1:57PM

Submitted photo by Meredith Thomas
Meredith Thomas took this photo Sunday by Dayville looking towards Aldrich Mountain. She said one of many strikes she captured started a fire she reported.

Submitted photo by Meredith Thomas Meredith Thomas took this photo Sunday by Dayville looking towards Aldrich Mountain. She said one of many strikes she captured started a fire she reported.

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A powerful thunderstorm ripped through the area June 28, bringing electricity to a landscape that had been scorched by high temperatures for days.

The results were expectedly flammable.

In the days since, fire crews have battled the blazes, despite unrelenting temperatures and holdover fires continuing to ignite.

The largest fire in the area — and all of central and eastern Oregon — is currently the Sugar Loaf Fire, which has burned more than 5,000 acres roughly eight miles north of Dayville. It is believed to be a lightning-caused, which touched off June 27. As of Tuesday, containment was just 20 percent.

Hundreds of firefighters had already camp set up in Dayville on June 29 to battle the blaze, which was mostly burning through grass and shrubs on BLM Prineville District lands, but also on some private property.

An outbuilding and a vehicle were destroyed by flames, though there were no serious injuries reported by press time.

This incident was being managed as a full suppression fire. Crews constructed a fire line along the north flank. Engines patrolled the perimeter roads and the Dick Creek Road, which cuts through the middle of the burned area, attempting to douse hot spots.

But Sugar Loaf is just one fire in the area, and Dayville is currently the epicenter of a number of large fires.

The human-caused Blue Basin Fire burned about 400 acres east of State Route 19, largely within the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

A large new fire, the Corner Creek Fire, is burning 11 miles south of the small town. It grew quickly overnight Tuesday into Wednesday to reach 850 acres in size. Helicopters and air tankers were dispatched to suppress it. Another fire, just a mile south of Dayville, burned about 65 acres.

But the storm sparked fires elsewhere, too.

One was touched off by lightning Sunday night, south of Mount Vernon.

The Harper Creek Complex fire was burning an estimated 321 acres on private land on June 30, according to Shilo Burton, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in John Day. Roughly 10 residences had been threatened, most along Harper Creek itself.

The blaze has been confirmed as lightning-caused and Burton said dozers has cleared a line around the entire fire.

The Hog Creek Fire burned roughly 30 acres and the Luce Creek Fire grew to 25 acres, and were considered to be part of the larger fire complex, but had been nearly extinguished by Tuesday.

But that’s not all.

The Jones Canyon Fire, at 400 acres, continued to expand about 12 miles northeast of Monument. It was burning through grass, brush and juniper in the old Monument Complex. Evacuations in the area were coordinated by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition, the Smith Hollow Fire, at 21 acres, burned in grass and brush near Fossil.

Some sparks were even closer to city centers.

Lightning started about four or five small fires near the city of John Day, near Antelope Lane. They burned about 20 acres of private property near numerous structures, and fire crews worked to contain them quickly due to the value of surrounding property.

Additionally, the north slope of the Aldrich Mountain Range had four fires reported June 29 in the former Thorn Fire area, the largest of which grew to roughly 11 acres.

The Sunday thunderstorm knocked out power overnight to more than 500 homes, mostly in the Dayville and Mount Vernon area, with some in John Day.

Firefighters will continue to battle the fires and the heat itself. The fire danger rating across the Malheur National Forest is high. Public use restrictions are in effect on public and private lands and utmost precautions are urged during Fourth Of July celebrations.


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