Over the past 10 years, 501 forest fires have started in the Wallowa Fire Zone, which includes all of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Wallowa County, all of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and all of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA). Of that number, 48 have been started by humans and the remainder by lightning.
During that span of time, 556,912.8 acres of land have been blackened by fires.
The worst fire year was in 1994 when 343,897 acres burned and 14 project fires exceeded 100 acres in size. The largest of those was the Twin Lakes fire, a lightning caused blaze that consumed 22,330 acres of land before firefighters could put it out. It was located three miles off of the 39 Road on the Halfway side along Fish Lake Road. Other fires from 1994 which exceeded 1,000 acres in size, all caused by lightning, were the Granite Fire, Freezeout Fire, Rapid River Fire, Fox Point Fire and Thorn Creek Fire. Of the 103 fires started in 1994, only four were human caused consuming less than five acres.
A more recent big year for forest fires came in the fire season of year 2000 when over 125,000 acres of Wallowa County was consumed. Five of 56 fires that fire season were man caused resulting in 1,047 acres worth of damage. Nearly all of that damage came in the Stateline Fire which was started at the extreme north end of Wallowa County along the Washington border. The largest fire of the year by far was the Eastside Complex Fire near the Imnaha River which consumed 97,486 acres of mostly steep terrain. The only other project fire in excess of 100 acres in 1994 was the Carrol Creek Fire which consumed 2,965 acres near the Harl Butte Lookout and Marr Flat off of the 39 Road. It was started by lightning.
Since 1997 three man caused fires have exceeded 100 acres in size. In addition to the Stateline Fire were the Bull Creek Fire in 1997 and the Rough Creek Fire in 1999. Of 32 fires reported in 1997, six of them man caused, only the Bull Creek Fire, at 750 acres, exceeded 100 acres. Bull Creek is located on the Idaho side of the HCNRA. The Rough Creek Fire equaled 120 acres and was located on the Oregon side of the HCNRA.
Though human-caused fires have blackened far less acreage than lightning caused fires over the past 10 years, the threat is always present to start a large project fire.
The following six precautions will greatly reduce the liklihood of man caused fires.
1) Drown your campfires and stir the ashes. Make sure it is dead out before leaving.
2) Clear a 5-foot circle surrounding your campfire.
3) Never leave your campfire unattended, and never leave children alone with a campfire.
4) Smoke only in areas cleared of dry vegetation. Crush all cigarettes dead out.
5) Never allow children to play with matches.
6) Don't park your vehicle in dry grass. Check your spark arrester on all small engines - chain saws, ATVs, motorcycles.