Fire crews work to battle blazes in Wallowa County

By Katy Nesbitt/The Observer August 19, 2013 10:38 am
ENTERPRISE — Two fires on the Wallowa-Whitman North Zone were called in less than 40 minutes apart Sunday afternoon. One blaze is in the Chesnimnus area, 21 miles northeast of Enterprise, while the other is seven miles south of Imnaha.

Big Sheep Two, the name assigned to the fire outside of Imnaha, burning in the Big Sheep Creek drainage, is more than 100 acres with 10 to 15 acres on private land. 

Matt Howard of the Oregon Department of Forestry said the U.S. Forest Service assigned a Type 3 team to it Sunday and a Type 2 team will be briefed Tuesday morning before taking over the fire’s management.

Howard said a base camp is being set up at the Joseph Rodeo Grounds.

The Forest Service dispatched an air attack over the fire Sunday with medium and heavy helicopters, single-engine air tankers and heavy air tankers. Engines and helitack crews are also on scene.

“They hit it hard and will again this morning. The goal is to keep it in the Big Sheep Creek drainage and not let it get established on the Imnaha River side,” Howard said. “It’s incredibly tough country, some inaccessible. They got people to the top of the ridge, but access for people will be really tough.”

Howard said there is private land on both sides, so the Department of Forestry is aiding the Forest Service to protect structures in the area.

The B and H fire is 21 miles northeast of Enterprise and three miles west of Vigne Campground. Howard said the fire is burning in 25 percent grass and 75 percent timber. The fire is being fought by a mutual agency effort.

“They caught it last night at 21 acres with engines with two medium helicopters and four single-engine air tanker loads,” he said. “There is dozer line around 75 percent and the rest is hand line.”

Howard said it’s mostly contained, but will require several days of mop-up. 

“There are a lot of snags to get on the ground,” Howard said.

With two good-sized fires on the zone, Howard said that leaves him three or four engines for initial attack.

“We’ve got to get the fires out best we can. We have lightning in the forecast Wednesday through Friday,” Howard said.