Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wildfire Updates: Bear Butte Fire on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

BAKER CITY, Ore. – Fire management officials with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest report that the Bear Butte Fire occupies the same general footprint on Sunday morning as it did on Saturday morning.  Updated mapping now estimates the size of the fire at less than 500 acres.
In an effort to maintain the fire footprint, firefighters have been working through the night on Saturday-Sunday, and they will continue to work night shifts for the next 3-4 nights.  Wildfires can burn less intensely as overnight temperatures drop, which provides an opportunity to capitalize on progress made during the day and secure the fire perimeter.  The fire is still being held to the north side of the Anthony Lakes Highway, FS Road 73, and several crews worked throughout the night to keep the fire from crossing to the south side of FS Road 73.
To ensure public and firefighter safety in the areas surrounding the Bear Butte Fire, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has issued a temporary fire area closure, effective August 5, 2017, and posted it to InciWeb.  Official responders are exempt.  FS Road 73 remains closed between the North Fork John Day Campground in the west and the National Forest boundary in the east.  FS Road 43 is also closed north of the Anthony Lakes Highway and up to the intersection with FS Road 4350.  For additional details, please see the closure order and this high-resolution map.  The Forest Service expects area and road closures to continue until further notice to ensure public and firefighter safety, and to ensure access for ongoing firefighting operations.
On Friday, August 4th, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office initiated evacuations of select areas near the Bear Butte Fire.  Campers, recreationists, and private land owners who evacuated the area are advised to monitor the “Announcements” tab of InciWeb ( for updates regarding future public access.
Baker County manages evacuations and related communications, and the Forest Service will continue to coordinate with Baker County.  For information about potential evacuations, please monitor the Baker County Sheriff’s Office Facebook site, and the map showing evacuation preparedness levels.  The red area on the map has already been evacuated; the green and yellow areas are where people should be prepared for potential evacuations in the future.
  • Areas shown in green are at Level 1 and need to “be ready” for a potential evacuation notice. 
  • Areas shown in yellow are at Level 2 and need to “be set” to evacuate at a moment’s notice. 
  • Areas shown in red need to “go” – evacuate now. 
For additional information about potential evacuations, residents can contact the Baker County Sheriff’s Office at 541-523-6415.
The Bear Butte Fire was discovered at approximately 2:00 p.m. on August 4th, 2017.  The cause is currently unknown.  Interagency partners – including the Forest Service, Baker County, Rural Fire Departments, and the Oregon Department of Forestry – continue to fight the fire with heavy use of air resources, along with fire engines, bulldozers, slash busters, hand crews, and water tenders.  The Forest Service has ordered more people, equipment, and other resources and is rapidly deploying them to the Bear Butte Fire.
Due to the complexity of the fire and forecasted weather challenges in the coming week, the Forest Service requested a Type 2 Incident Management Team to bring additional resources and expertise to the fire-suppression effort.  Northwest Team 9, led by Incident Commander Brian Goff, arrived on Saturday for a 4:00 p.m. “in-briefing” in Baker City.  Team 9 took over local command of the fire beginning on Sunday, August 6th, at 6:00 a.m.  The Team has established its Incident Command Post near the Anthony Lakes Highway at the ODFW Elkhorn Wildlife Viewing Area at the base of the Elkhorn Mountains.
At this time there are multiple wildfires burning around the region and nation.  The Forest Service and its interagency partners are coordinating firefighting resources within a regional and national system with an aim to deploy those resources to the top-priority incidents.
Public Use Restrictions remain in effect on both public and private lands across the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon, and fire danger is “extreme.”  Please check for current information on fire restrictions in the Blue Mountains region.

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