A thunderstorm late Friday and early Saturday helped spread a prescribe burn west of Lostine beyond its established boundaries, and Wallowa-Whitman Forest officials on Saturday declared the burn as a wildfire.
The fire, 17 miles west of Lostine, was 750 acres in size Sunday afternoon and is being managed by a small Type 3 Incident Management Team lead by Nathan Goodrich, according to a Wallowa-Whitman press release issued Sunday. Resources include two interagency Hot Shot crews and one Type 1 helicopter and one Type 3 helicopter.
Firefighters initiated the Minam 4 Prescribe Burn on Thursday using helicopter ignition due to challenges accessing the planned prescribe burn area — approximately 2,000 acres on the east side of Big Sheep Ridge and southeast 6 miles along the Minam River.
The prescribe burn was planned as an early fall ignition to take advantage of dry fuel conditions and anticipated cooler weather with precipitation in the forecast. The conditions were ideal to help managers meet their objectives of reducing heavy down and decadent fuels, forest officials said.
A crew from the Wallowa Mountain Zone hiked into the prescribe fire area on Friday to check the status of the fire and observed the burn to be meeting management objectives and staying within prescription area. During
During a helicopter survey of the area Friday afternoon, fire managers identified a spot fire east of the burn area across Trout Creek. Due to the time of day, it was determined firefighters could not safely access the spot fire until the following day.
Early Saturday morning brought a strong thunderstorm across Northeast Oregon, producing higher-than-expected wind in the planned burn area with very little moisture. Firefighters hiked to the spot fire Saturday and found that the winds allowed the spot fire to spread to the east, upslope onto Cougar Ridge, South of Division Gulch and ultimately outside of the prescribed burn area.
The Minam Fire was declared late Saturday, when fire managers identified that they would not be able to contain the fire spread outside of the planned perimeter within the next 24 hours.
Cooler weather kept the spread of the fire minimal into Sunday as additional crews and aircraft arrived on scene to support suppression efforts. Weather forecasts indicate an increased chance of precipitation over the coming days, which should help containment efforts.
Forest officials said smoke from the Minam Fire will have moderate impacts to air quality in the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Valleys over the next couple of days.
For incident updates, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5050.