Blue Ridge fire

Smoke from the Blue Ridge Fire as seen from the Aldrich Lookout on July 6.

A Type 3 firefighting team with about 125 personnel responded to a lightning-caused fire about 4 miles northwest of the Flagtail Mountain Lookout over the Fourth of July weekend.

Forest Service officials chose to manage the Blue Ridge Fire in a similar way to prescribed burning in spring as a way to reduce dead and downed fuels, according to a press release.

The fire was first identified on July 3 around 10:15 a.m. and had grown to about 667 acres by July 9. Four Type 2 crews, one helicopter, nine Type 6 engines and one water tender were assigned to the fire.

Fire crews reported moderate backing, some single-tree torching and creeping on July 7, as efforts continued to prepare fire lines. Aerial ignition efforts took place inside the containment lines.

All lines were still holding the next morning. A helicopter was available, but no additional aerial ignitions were planned. Mop-up work was expected to continue through the week, with containment expected by July 12.

Allowing the fire to burn in a managed way is expected to both reduce the risk of larger and catastrophic wildfires and restore overall health for Forest Service lands.

“Fire is an essential, natural process, having shaped the landscape for thousands of years, releasing, and recycling nutrients from vegetation, duff, and soil layers, improving the overall health of plants and animals,” the Forest Service said in a press release.

Crews safely and successfully treated about 13,450 acres on the Malheur National Forest through prescribed fire operations in fall 2018 and spring 2019.

“These burnout operations will reduce surface fuels (including needle litter and dead and down wood), increase the height of some canopy, reduce small tree densities and help promote fire resilient trees, thereby improving our ability to protect communities from wildfire,” the Forest Service said.

The Forest Service warned about the potential for light smoke impacts to the cities of Seneca, John Day and Prairie City. To ensure public and firefighter safety, some roads, trails and areas were closed temporarily.

For more information, visit InciWeb online. To report a wildfire, call 911 or 541-575-1321.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at rick@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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