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IT BURNED HOT: Cindy Nowak from the Winema National Forest Hot Shot crew, from south-central Oregon, hunts for hot spots Tuesday amid charred lodgepole pine and sub-alpine fir in the area where the Boulevard Fire started. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
IT BURNED HOT: Cindy Nowak from the Winema National Forest Hot Shot crew, from south-central Oregon, hunts for hot spots Tuesday amid charred lodgepole pine and sub-alpine fir in the area where the Boulevard Fire started. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The double line of water hose begins at two giant inflatable water troughs at the head of the Boulevard Trail and snakes up and down the trail leading into the Beaver Creek watershed, where trees stand blackened by fire.

The containers resembling oversize wading pools are filled from trucks that ferry back and forth between nearby ponds and the fire scene.

More than 13,000 feet of hose the longest many fire officers have seen were laid to fight the Boulevard Fire on 50 acres inside the forest about 20 miles southwest of La Grande.

Several hundred yards down the trail, a water pump runs noisily in a second huge water container. Two dusty firefighters monitor the pump.

Weve pumped 35,000 gallons of water since 9 a.m. today from this site alone, said a fire officer at the head of the trail. I guess nearly 100,000 gallons have been pumped.

The hiking-ATV trail through the forest was well traveled Tuesday afternoon, with firefighters riding ATVs pulling little trailers full of hose and various kinds of supplies. Most of the supplies were moving away from the fire.

Near the burned area, two paramedics sat leaning against trees in a make-shift camp. Their days on the Boulevard Fire have been uneventful, with no accidents or illnesses.

We handed out a little moleskin yesterday afternoon, said one. Thats how we like it to be.

The fire, which was spotted about 4 p.m. Friday, drew as many as 580 firefighters and support personnel over the weekend. By Tuesday afternoon, many of them were headed home or to other western fires.

No flames were visible Tuesday, but firefighters moved among a grove of burned trees and underbrush, finding and extinguishing hot spots.

This is where the fire burned the hottest, said day operations chief Iden Asato of the Northwest Interagency Fire Team as he stood at the edge of a burned-out grove of trees. We thought it would be much bigger.

Iden said he flew across the area when he arrived at the scene.

It looked like the fire would cross the creek to the south and grow to about 300 or 400 acres, he said.

From the beginning when they attacked the fire, La Grande Ranger District employees feared the blaze would spread to several hundred acres, threatening much of the old-growth trees and the citys alternative water source, the Beaver Creek Reservoir.

Members of the interagency fire team credited the La Grande crew with knocking the blaze down to a manageable level.

The crews caught the major portion of the fire, said Dick Kenton of La Grande, division group supervisor on the fire. They did a great job of stopping it when they did.

An exact retardant drop was also credited with extinguishing much of the fire.

The pilot said he couldnt see through the smoke, so he guessed where he should drop the retardant, and he hit the hot spot right on, said Kathy Keable, fire information officer.

Helicopters that were called in to drop water on the fire each day were not needed late Tuesday.

Asato said a combination of quick and effective response from the local crews, low wind, cooler weather and the number of firefighters available contributed to fighting the fire successfully.

We still have some smoke on the east side, downhill, Asato said. We are at the end of the mop up phase.


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