Birch Creek fire

Smoke rises through the trees from the Birch Creek Fire.

Firefighters made progress Wednesday securing containment lines on the Birch Creek Fire, which is burning on the North Fork John Day Ranger District west of the junctions of Forest Service Road 54 with FSR 5412 and FSR 5411, approximately 12 miles northeast of Ukiah.

The Birch Creek Fire was held at 35 acres and is 40% contained. Fire behavior was moderate yesterday, primarily consisting of backing and smoldering with isolated torching. Firefighters focused suppression efforts on improving and securing containment lines to reduce the risk of the fire moving outside of the perimeter. Wind conditions increased yesterday afternoon, but the fire held within containment lines.

Today, firefighters will continue to strengthen these containment lines and mop up hot spots adjacent to the line construction, working inward from the fire perimeter. Mopping up includes searching for pockets of heat, digging out the heat source and cooling with water. There are pockets of unburned fuel within the interior of the fire, which may produce smoke as the fire moves through those areas. Additionally, heavy equipment will continue to clear brush and other fuels to create fuel breaks as contingency lines to provide additional protection for private lands to the southwest.

To protect public and firefighter safety, an area and road closure is in effect surrounding the Birch Creek Fire. With increased firefighter traffic and low visibility, the public is asked to avoid the area. The closure includes portions of Forest Service Road 54, FSR 5411 and FSR 5412. A detailed map and description of the closure order is available on the forest website and at any forest office. Closure barriers and signs are posted on the ground and visitors can take alternative routes out of the area including Yellowjacket Road (FSR 5412 and FSR 5420), FSR 54 south to Highway 244 and FSR 5427 east to Indian Lake. Access to the popular area south of Granite Meadows toward Oregon Highway 244 is still available via FSR 5412 and the 030 spur.

The health and safety of the public and wildland fire responders is top priority and mitigations are being taken regarding group sizes by dispersing firefighting resources through separate and smaller fire camps and conducting virtual meetings when possible.

Current resources assigned to the fire include six engines, six crews, two dozers, two masticators, one feller buncher and one skidder.

Weather conditions are expected to remain hot and dry with smoke in the area over the next few days. Isolated thunderstorms are forecast for Friday, which may also bring rain and increased winds over the fire area.

Fire officials want to remind everyone that the current fire danger rating remains at extreme, and public use restrictions involving campfires, chainsaw use, smoking and off-road travel are in effect.

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