Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Umatilla National Forest Fire Update

West Texas Fire - Nov. 5, 2019

PENDLETON, Ore. Firefighters on the Umatilla National Forest have made progress on recent fires discovered on the Heppner and North Fork John Day Ranger Districts.
Given the time of year and favorable weather conditions, the Forest is taking a strategic approach on two of the recent fires, which will help create fuel breaks to work from in the event of future wildfires, while also reducing overstocked and hazardous fuel conditions in the area, restoring forest health and resilience, and improving foraging habitat for big game. 
The West Texas Fire, which is located approximately nine miles south of Ukiah near Texas Bar on the North Fork John Day Ranger District, is now 10 acres in size and is creeping and smoldering in open timber. An engine and two additional firefighters will be on scene today patrolling and mapping the burned area to assess fire behavior and the potential spread of the fire in comparison to values at risk.  This suppression strategy will continue to allow the fire to reduce fuel loadings and contribute to a more resilient landscape in the area.
Fire crews conducted burn out operations yesterday on the Skookum Fire on the Heppner Ranger District, which is located approximately one mile northwest of the Alder Creek/Skookum Trailhead and two miles northeast of the Tupper Guard Station. The fire is approximately 50 acres in size and continues to smolder in a mixture of grass, brush, timber and snags (dead or burned trees). Yesterday’s suppression actions focused on managing fire growth and direction of spread.  Firefighters continue to monitor the fire and weather forecast to assess options for accomplishing additional fuels reduction objectives by actively moving the fire across the landscape. 
The public is asked to use caution when recreating on the Forest and to be aware of increased hazards, particularly snags and smoky conditions. Both the North Fork John Day and Heppner Ranger Districts are actively implementing prescribed burning activities and forest visitors may see smoke in other portions of the districts. Utilizing fire as a tool during these current mild conditions reduces the risk of uncontrolled wildfires during future fire seasons.
Forest officials also ask that visitors do not camp or hang out in burned areas. Dead or dying trees that remain standing after a fire are unstable, especially in high winds. Loose rocks and logs can be present in a burned area and are unpredictable, creating a falling a hazard. Additionally, burned vegetation can also contribute to landslides, mudslides and erosion when rain occurs. The ground in a burned area can also be unstable, due to burned-out roots beneath the surface.  After soils and vegetation have been charred, rainfall that would normally be absorbed could run off extremely quickly.
With many visitors on the Forest right now, Forest officials recommend the following campfire safety precautions:
·       Campfires should be in fire pits surrounded by dirt, rock, or commercial rings and in areas not conducive to rapid fire spread.  All flammable material shall be cleared within a 3-foot radius from the edge of the pit and free of overhanging material. Use existing pits wherever possible. (Note: within the Grande Ronde Scenic Waterway, campfires must be contained in a fireproof container (i.e., "fire pan") with sides of a height sufficient to contain all ash and debris, and all ashes and debris must be removed from the river corridor. Do not use or construct fire pits or rock fire rings within the Scenic Waterway.)
·       Campfires must be attended at all times, and completely extinguished prior to leaving.
·       Persons with campfires should carry a tool that can serve as a shovel and one gallon of water in their possession. The intent of this recommendation is to ensure individuals with a campfire to have the tools necessary to completely extinguish their campfire.
The latest fire information will be posted on the Blue Mountains Fire Information Blog. To receive updates on fires in the Blue Mountains, follow our blog at
For more information about prescribed burning on the Umatilla National Forest, please visit:

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