Fire breaks out on Pumpkin Ridge

By By Don Iler The Observer August 13, 2012 04:27 pm

Kyle Cook and Trenton Neil of Wallowa County Unit of the Oregon Department of Forestry conduct mop-up operations at the Pumpkin Ridge fire Monday.

Pumpkin Ridge turned a little orange and smoky as a fire broke out on private property west of Elgin on Monday.

The almost 8-acre fire was first reported around 11:30 a.m. By 3:30 p.m., it was around 80 percent contained, with 100 percent containment expected by Tuesday around mid-day. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“We had a pretty darn good save because of fast reaction times from everyone,” said Jamie Knight, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry. 

The fire burned mainly pine and grass, and fire fighters were able to bring in two bulldozers to create lines to fight the fire. Two helicopters were also called to the fire, as well as an air attack plane. One of the helicopters was based out of Pendleton, the other in La Grande.  

Elgin Rural Fire Department responded to the fire first and called for mutual aid from other departments. Nearly all rural fire departments in Union County were called to the fire, including Imbler, North Powder, Union, Cove, La Grande, as well as the City of La Grande Fire Department. Oregon Department of Forestry crews from both Union and Wallowa counties responded, as did the Forest Service.

“Real interagency cooperation is what got it captured here today,” said Mitch Williams, protection supervisor with the Oregon Department of Forestry in La Grande. “With real interagency coming together, we don’t get hung up on who’s responsibility it is.” 

A crew will remain in the evening and hold the fire overnight. In the morning, crews will be attacking it with three engines and a water tender, involving around 30 people. 

Additionally, the Oregon Department of Forestry issued additional regulations to its regulated use closure for lands in the Northeast Oregon District Monday morning because of persistant dry weather. 

These regulations include:

· Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking and warming fires, except at designated locations. Designated locations within the Regulated Use Closure area can be found at the following State Parks: Emigrant Springs, Ukiah Dale, Catherine Creek, Hilgard Junction, Red Bridge, Wallowa Lake, Minam, and Unity Lake. Make sure campfires in these designated locations are dead out before leaving.

· Debris burning is prohibited, including the use of burn barrels.

· Non-industrial chain saw use is prohibited.

· Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water, or at a cleared area.

· Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all terrain vehicles (ATVs), is prohibited except on improved roads, except for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.

· Cutting, grinding and welding is prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is permitted at all other hours, if conducted in a cleared area and if a water supply is present, unless specifically waived by the State Forester.

· Mowing of dried and cured grass with power driven equipment is prohibited.

· Use of fireworks is prohibited.

· The use of exploding targets is prohibited.

· Any electric fence controller in use shall be: 1) Listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services; and 2 ) Operated in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions.

For more information about restrictions call the La Grande Unit at 541-963-3168 or the Wallowa Unit at 541-886-2881.

A crew from the Oregon Youth Authority joins in at the Pumpkin Ridge Fire.