Granite Gulch Fire Aug 1

Granite Gulch fire burns near the head of the Minam River Canyon.

NEW USFS UPDATE ON 1000-acre GRANITE GULCH WILDERNESS FIRE:

Helicopter water drops limit the spread

of the Granite Gulch Fire

August 6, 2019

Contact: Dave Schmitt, Public Information Officer, 541-519-1460

Incident Summary

Initial report: July 30, 2019

Cause: Lightning

Approximate size: 950-1000 acres (Aug. 5, 9:00pm PST)

Personnel assigned: Incident Commander, Trainee Incident Commander, Public Information Officer, Strategic Operational Planner, two Fire Effects Monitors, and four-person Fire Module

Resources assigned: Type 3 helicopter

Resources available: Type 1 helicopter and fixed wing aircraft

Joseph, Oregon – Forest Service fire managers ordered a helicopter to drop water along the western and southern perimeter of the Granite Gulch Fire yesterday and today. At this time, the objectives of these suppression actions are to reduce the fire’s intensity while preventing its spread across the Minam River to the south or downstream to the west.

There is currently no fire across the Minam River, and in the short term, firefighters will continue to suppress any fire that may cross the river. Tactics will include aviation resources and limited ground personnel.

The Granite Gulch Fire is approximately 950-1000 acres in size. Yesterday, the fire progressed out of Granite Gulch and into a drainage immediately to the east, called No Name drainage. As expected, a column of smoke from that drainage could be seen from Baker, La Grande, and Wallowa valleys. Today, the fire is moving east toward Wild Sheep drainage with little movement to the southwest.

"So far, I am pleased with the effects of this fire," said District Fire Management Officer, Nathan Goodrich. "It is following typical burn patterns in subalpine fir, and reports from the ground indicate beneficial effects in mixed conifer and ponderosa pine stands."

Forest Service fire managers are pursuing a confinement strategy that calls for active management of the Granite Gulch Fire to keep it within specific areas of the upper Minam River drainage and well-within the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Fire managers will continue to take appropriate suppression actions to meet multiple objectives:

· * keeping the fire confined to specific areas of the Wilderness,

· * allowing the fire to play a natural role in maintaining the ecosystem,

· * reducing hazardous fuels,

· * reducing the risk of future wildfires burning out of the Wilderness and onto general forest or

· private lands, and

· * reducing the risk that future wildfires pose to the public and firefighters.

Residents and visitors should expect to see and smell some smoke over the coming weeks. Even though the fire is located deep within the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, a column of smoke may rise above the Wallowa Mountains when the fire is active.

Forest visitors who wish to travel through the upper Minam River area should contact the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest's Wallowa Mountains Office at 541-426-5546. Advisory signs have been posted at numerous trailheads. Although there are currently no trail or area closures, there may be a need for future closures to protect public health and safety.

Please visit InciWeb for updated information about the Granite Gulch Fire.

Please call 911 if you spot a wildfire. Keep in mind that fire danger remains HIGH across the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Public Use Restrictions (Phase A) and Industrial Fire Precautions (Level II) are in effect.

Forest Service fire managers are pursuing a confinement strategy that calls for active management of the 700-acre Granite Gulch Fire on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. This means that firefighters are working to keep the wildfire within specific, pre-identified areas of the upper Minam River drainage and well-within the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Lightning sparked a fire at about 7500′ elevation on steep rocky slopes of Granite Creek in upper Minam River Canyon late last week. The fire, which is 2 miles west of Granite Mountain, and far from private lands and structures, was initially reported on Tuesday. At that time, USFS Helitack crews then estimated it at about 20 acres in size with spotting starting several small related blazes. “It’s a fire that’s burning with low intensity and doing nothing but good,” said helitack crew leader Shane Dillavou.

Aerial inspection by The Chieftain on August 1 indicated that the fire may have spread slightly from its earlier size, with several additional spot fires burning.

Smoke appeared to be moving down the Minam River Canyon. On Wednesday, a Wallowa County 911 caller reported a fire “near Maxwell Lake” that proved to be smoke from the Granite Gulch fire. Smoke from this fire may be visible from Lostine and Wallowa, and can also be seen from La Grande and Baker City.

By Friday evening the Granite Gulch fire in the Eagle Cap Wilderness had grown to a number of small blazes spread over an area of slightly more than 200 acres. The fire was burning more timber downslope toward the Minam River, and was concentrated in downed wood and fairly moist fuels on the east side of Granite Gulch above the Minam River according to USFS fire manager Nathan Goodrich. Light rain on Friday quenched some flames.

As of Monday morning, the fire had spread to about 700 acres, burning primarily in south-facing, high-elevation subalpine fir. Within the 700-acre fire perimeter, only a quarter of the fire area is actively burning. At higher elevations, rocky terrain and ridges have limited the fire’s behavior to smoldering and creeping. The fire has also reached forested areas at lower elevations, where it is burning more continuously and mostly on the ground. The most active fire behavior, and also the most visible, occurs when the fire runs from low in the drainage up to higher-elevation rocky areas.

Fire managers are using modeling tools and on-site information to evaluate current and future fire growth, and to determine the need for suppression actions. Currently, firefighters plan to check the fire at several key locations. Tactics will include aviation resources and potentially ground resources.

“The Granite Gulch Fire is more active, so smoke may be visible from the Baker, Grande Ronde, and Wallowa valleys,” said Nathan Goodrich, District Fire Management Officer with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Fire managers will take appropriate suppression actions, as necessary, to meet multiple objectives:

• keeping the fire confined to specific areas of the Wilderness,

• allowing the fire to play a natural role in maintaining the ecosystem,

• reducing hazardous fuels,

• reducing the risk of future wildfires burning out of the Wilderness and onto general forest or private lands, and

• reducing the risk that future wildfires pose to the public and firefighters.

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