More than 30 fire starts were reported in the John Day Fire Dispatch area over the past weekend following strong thunderstorms Saturday night.
That’s on top of the two dozen or so lightning-caused fires that followed thunderstorms on Aug. 4-5 — including a small blaze less than half a mile from the south shore of Magone Lake.
But the quarter-inch of rain that fell Aug. 10, along with cooler temperatures and quick responses by firefighters, helped keep nearly all the fires to less than half an acre.
The rain halted the spread of the HK Complex fire, which had grown by Aug. 8 to about 2,665 acres about 15 miles north of Monument. Fire line has been secured around the entire perimeter, and the fire is considered 59% contained.
The complex initially included about a dozen fires, but as the Sulfur Springs and Little Bear fires merged on the 21 Road by Aug. 9, eight of the fires were 100% contained.
A Type 3 incident team that took over the HK Complex fire Aug. 6 was replaced by a Type 2 team two days later. At one point, about 573 firefighters along with engines and aircraft were assigned to the fire.
Mop-up efforts and equipment removal began after Saturday’s rain. A new lightning-caused fire on Turner Mountain the next day was quickly suppressed. A large island of unburned forest fuels in the center of the complex will be allowed to burn out.
As part of the effort to close out the HK Complex fire, water tenders made significant progress Aug. 11 in refilling stock ponds used by engines and helicopters. The ponds, which are needed by livestock in the area, were expected to be refilled with water by the end of the day Aug. 12. The Type 2 team plans to transfer the fire back to local control Wednesday morning.
Farther west, the 150-acre lightning-caused Sheep Mountain fire was spotted Aug. 7 about 10 miles west of Mitchell and 3 miles southwest of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument’s Painted Hills Unit.
Pre-evacuation notices were issued by the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office, as steep slopes and limited access hampered firefighting efforts. Intense rain that caused flooding in areas dampened the fire, and mop-up efforts began Aug. 8.
The 100-acre lightning-caused Battle Creek fire on private land southwest of Dayville was reported Aug. 9. A Central Oregon Fire Management Type 3 team responded. The fire was fully lined by Aug. 10 and crews were beginning mop-up operations.
A 40-acre fire burning grass and brush about 6 miles southeast of Prairie City was reported at about 5 p.m. on Aug. 10. Oregon Department of Forestry crews assisted the Prairie City Rural Fire Department in extinguishing the blaze.
On Aug. 11, firefighters responded quickly to a 0.1-acre fire at the Bull Prairie Campground northeast of Spray and had it extinguished within three hours. The fire was blamed on an abandoned campfire.