Progress reported on Birch Creek Fire

PENDLETON(News release from Umatilla National Forest officials)

Containment lines continue to hold despite increased winds yesterday on the Birch Creek Fire, which is burning on the North Fork John Day Ranger District west of the junctions of Forest Service Road (FSR) 54 with FSR 5412 and FSR 5411, approximately 12 miles northeast of Ukiah, Oregon. 

The Birch Creek Fire is approximately 32 acres and is now 75% contained.  The change in acreage is due to better mapping. Yesterday fire behavior primarily consisting of smoldering and creeping. Firefighters continued to improve containment lines and completed mop up activities further into the interior of the fire perimeter. Mopping up includes searching for pockets of heat, digging out the heat source, and cooling with water. Additionally, heavy equipment finished building contingency lines to provide additional protection for private lands to the southwest. Today, firefighters will continue to strengthen containment lines and conduct mop up activities. There are pockets of unburned fuel within the interior of the fire, which may produce smoke as the fire moves through those areas.  The Type 3 Incident Management Team will transition command of the fire back to the North Fork John Day Ranger District on Sunday, Sept. 20. This will be the final daily update unless conditions change.

With the reduction in firefighter activity, the Umatilla National Forest plans to re-open some access within the closure area tomorrow. Forest Service Roads 54, 5411 and 5412 will be reopened. The 110 spur will remain closed.  The area closure will remain in place for a much smaller area in immediate proximity to the fire, where hazards such as fire-weakened trees, burning snags and hot ash pits remain.  The forest order prohibits anyone from entering (by any means of transportation), hunting or camping within the closure area. A detailed map and description of the closure order will be available on the Forest website and at any Forest office once finalized. Closure barriers, maps and signs are posted on the ground.

The health and safety of the public and wildland fire responders is top priority and mitigations are being taken regarding group sizes by dispersing firefighting resources through separate and smaller fire camps and conducting virtual meetings when possible.

Current resources assigned to the fire include six engines, four partial crews, seven water tenders, and one dozer. Based on operational needs, some resources are being demobilized today and made available to respond to other fires.

Fire officials want to remind everyone that the current fire danger rating remains at EXTREME and public use restrictions involving campfires, chainsaw use, smoking and off-road travel are in effect.