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Firefighting units from districts across the state line up outside Wallowa Elementary School before an Incident Team meeting Saturday, July 17, 2021. The units were to be deployed to the Elbow Creek Fire starting early July 18.

ENTERPRISE — Oregon Department of Forestry’s Incident Management Team 3, led by Incident Commander Link Smith, has assumed operations on the Elbow Creek Fire, according to a press release on Sunday, July 18.

The arrival of the fire management organization, which also includes key members from Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Blue Team, brings in additional overhead capacity and firefighting resources.

“This is going to be challenging, but we will give everything we have to protect the natural resources,” Smith said after receiving the team in-brief from local agencies.

Oregon State Fire Marshal Chief Deputy Travis Medema echoed this commitment adding state fire marshal’s presence aids in, “protecting structures and further supporting the community.”

The release said there are now 154 active personnel working the fire, which has charred nearly 11,000 acres and is threatening 156 structures. The fire is 10% contained.

The Elbow Creek Fire was first reported July 15 in the northwest corner of Wallowa County and was burning through grasslands and forest on both sides of the Grande Ronde River, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Progress was made July 17 on the northwest side of the fire with firefighting crews constructing line and stopping progression of the fire into the Elbow Creek Drainage. Dozer operations have assisted in cutting lines along the ridges on both the north and south ends of the fire. Burnout operations on the eastern portions of the fire were successfully performed during the evening.

Crews and equipment will pick up July 18 where the night shift left off and continue to connect containment lines in open areas, the release said. Additional task forces also will be joining crews.

Fire potential remains high with warmer and drier conditions expected July 18. The topography of the area acts in funneling winds — accelerating rapid fire growth and erratic fire behavior. The weather outlook for the week brings the potential of thunderstorms starting July 19 afternoon through the morning of July 20.

A virtual community meeting will be held this evening on Facebook Live at 7 p.m. Evacuation orders remain in place with the most up to date map found on the Wallowa County Sheriff Facebook page.

David Weaver, with the Oregon Department of Forestry, said firefighters from the Forest Service, from Joseph, Wallowa and Enterprise fire departments, ODF fighters from Wallowa, La Grande, Baker and Pendleton, and even local landowners helped battle the blaze early on. A helibase, Weaver said, has being established in Flora and a fire camp is set up in Wallowa, with a spike camp in Promise.

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