Three small lightning-caused fires are burning near the southern boundary of Baker City's designated municipal watershed area about 12 miles east-northeast of Sumpter.
Favorable weather Aug. 8 was expected to help initial attacks by rapellers and ground crews supported by engines, according to a Wallowa-Whitman National Forest press release. Aerial support and other resources are also available.
"Protecting the Baker City Municipal Watershed is a high priority, so our objective is to put these fires out as soon as possible and minimize acres burned,” Whitman District Ranger Kendall Cikanek said. “There is no imminent threat to municipal watershed infrastructure.”
The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest also reports that multiple lightning-caused fires have been remotely detected or reported south of Whitney Meadow, which is south of Highway 7 between Austin and Sumpter.
Firefighting crews from the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry and Powder River Rural Fire Department have been actively suppressing these fires. Meanwhile, a spotter plane is looking for other fire starts across the national forest.
A red flag warning for abundant lightning will be in effect until 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10. A potential exists for strong thunderstorms on Friday afternoon, with heavy rain and hail. Winds are expected to pick up later in the day, with possible gusts up to 50 miles per hour.
Fire officials remind the pubic that the current fire danger rating remains at "high" and public-use restrictions involving chainsaw use are in effect.
A wildfire that started Aug. 7 has burned about 150 acres about 10 miles west of Mitchell and 3 miles southwest of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument's Painted Hills Unit.
The Wheeler County Sheriff's Office issued Level 1 (get ready) pre-evacuation notices for the Sheep Mountain Fire the next day. The Bureau of Land Management is in unified command with the Wheeler County Rural Fire Protection Association on the fire.
"Steep slopes and limited access will challenge suppression efforts today," Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch said Aug. 8.
Firefighting crews plan to use helicopters for both bucket drops, as well as shuttling personnel to the fire line. The Painted Hills area remains open, but officials warn about increased traffic in the area due to the fire.
More than a dozen fires were reported in the John Day Interagency Dispatch region following lightning strikes on Aug. 4-5. Most were contained and controlled by the second day.
Half a dozen fires that started in the Heppner Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest about 15 miles north of Monument were administratively combined into the HK Complex fire.
The HK Complex grew from 185 total acres of grass, brush and timber with about a dozen individual fires on Aug. 5 to 2,665 total acres by Aug. 9.
The Hog Creek fire about 20 miles west of Dale was burning on 80 acres on Aug. 8. Resources were at the site. The 125-acre Little Bear fire was also burning about 20 miles west of Dale. The fire was about 50% lined by Aug. 8.
The Sulfur Springs and Little Bear fires merged on the 21 Road by Aug. 9, and the eight remaining fires in the HK Complex Fire were 100% contained by Aug. 8. Overall, the HK Complex Fire was about 30% contained by Aug. 9.
A Type 3 incident management team from John Day took over the complex on Aug. 6, but with torching, spotting and active running, a Type 2 team took over Aug. 8.
Initial resources on the scene included a 20-person Hotshot crew, nine 20-person hand crews, 15 engines and one skidgeon. Crews, which increased to about 474 by Aug. 8, continued to construct fire lines where terrain and fuels allowed safe work. Aircraft were being used to slow fire spread and to cool hot spots within the fire perimeter.
The Heppner Ranger District reported 12 new fires by Aug. 6, including the 49.2-acre Rocky Flats fire, which was burning grass, timber and juniper about 13 miles northeast of Spray. By Aug. 7, the fire was 100% lined at about 49 acres.
The 2-acre Wolf Springs fire about 5 miles west of Ukiah was reported by the Umatilla Forest's North Fork John Day Ranger District on Aug. 5. Initial attack resources were assigned to the fire and began constructing fire lines Aug. 6.
The 4.8-acre Indian Hollow fire, burning grass, brush and juniper on private land near Parish Creek about 6 miles south of Spray, was contained and controlled by Oregon Department of Forestry crews on Aug. 5.
The Slide Creek fire, a 0.1-acre grass and brush fire on private land 6-7 miles southwest of Mitchell, was contained and controlled by ODF crews on Aug. 5.
ODF responded to the Matlock fire about 12 miles west-southwest of Ukiah on Aug. 6. The 7.1-acre fire was burning grass and timber.
ODF crews contained the No Name Creek fire about 10 miles west-southwest of Ukiah on Aug. 6. The 0.25-acre fire burned grass and timber.
The state crews responded and contained the 0.1-acre Borden Gulch fire in the Wind Creek drainage 5 miles north of Sumpter on Aug. 5.