The Grizzly Bear Complex fire reached nearly 60,000 acres on Saturday afternoon and has destroyed five homes and 19 outbuildings as fire crews worked to create fire lines around the northern Wallowa County blaze.
According to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters and bulldozers have been constructing a perimeter around the 59,150-acre fire. The firefighters are clearing and reducing fuels to be ready for burning out fuels this week if needed. Tree removal machines are working double-shifts to improve roads for use as fire lines on the north and south edges of the fire.
The fire has continued to spread along its south and east perimeters, where helicopters dropped water to slow its growth. Air crews were grounded for part of the afternoon when smoke reduced visibility.
The press release said one hay barn burned but the adjacent home and garage were successfully protected on Saturday. Other homes located at the Grouse Flat, Eden Bench, and Troy remain threatened. A portion of the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Green Team fire engines are on scene as a night shift.
Northwest of the fire, in an area where it would be unsafe for firefighters to make a direct protective stand, pumps, hose and sprinklers have been installed around several cabins. On Sunday, the seasonal cabin owners will be escorted to the area and allowed to remove personal belongings. If the fire nears, the firefighters will retreat, leaving the sprinklers in place to protect the structures.
Several camps have been established near the fire to reduce travel times for firefighters. A new camp is being set up in Dayton, Washington that will benefit firefighters working along the northern portion of the fire.
A subsidence inversion overnight Saturday with warm temperatures and very low humidity will keep light fuels dry overnight. Tomorrow is expected to be hotter and drier, with humidity in the mid-teens. Although winds should be minimal, a smoke column may rise tomorrow above the fire as heat is released from burning fuels into an unstable atmosphere. Due to the potential for this high-energy fire behavior, there is no change planned in evacuation levels at this time.
Grizzly Bear Complex Fire public meetings will be held Sunday at the Anatone Community Hall in Anatone, Wash., at 3 p.m., and at the Flora School in Flora at 6 p.m.