The Canyon Creek Complex fire is less than three miles from the Strawberry Lake basin, but Oregon National Guard troops are working to keep it away from an iconic piece of Eastern Oregon’s wilderness.
Stefanie Gatchell, a public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said Thursday afternoon that the fire is 2.5 to three miles southeast of Strawberry Lake, its nearby waterfalls and the normally heavily used Strawberry Lake Campground.
Gatchell said guard troops, deployed by Oregon governor Kate Brown, are stationed on the south and southeast edge of the fire.
“Definitely one of the goals is to protect that basin and that campground,” said Gatchell. “We know what that means to people.”
She said guard troops have cut a fire line and are monitoring the area.
Firefighting on the ground in wilderness areas is heavily restricted. So while skies are relatively clear, crews are doing most of the proactive work from above, Gatchell said. She said there was one small flare up in the basin, but that fire was attacked and put out.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer confirmed that six structures — cabins that weren’t full-time residences — were destroyed.
Still, a red flag warning is in effect in Grant County. High winds and warm temperatures mean that fires can start to “create their own weather,” said Gatchell, so crews remain on guard.
Winds were blowing south and southeast on Thursday afternoon, a lucky break for now for the often-visited piece of wilderness they are trying to protect.
The campground, which has no permanent buildings except for a pit toilet, is closed because of the fire.