From Mule Peak LO 8-5. Picture courtesy of USFS
JOSEPH, Ore – The Granite Gulch wildfire in the Minam River drainage has burned more than 1,000 acres since it started July 28.
Yesterday a helicopter dropped water to cool down the western edge of the fire burning near Cheval Lake, deep in the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Nathan Goodrich, Wallowa-Whitman North Zone fire management officer, said the helicopter will be used again today to control its spread to the West along the Minam River.
“We are corralling it on the southwest corner,” Goodrich said. “We don’t want it to freely burn at its own will with a month and a half of fire season left.”
Goodrich said Monday the fire mostly confined east of Granite Gulch and is mostly confined there again today.
“That is what was putting up a good smoke column that could be seen in all three of the local valleys,” Goodrich said.
A storm system coming on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, will bring high winds, cooler temperatures, lightning, and possibly more fire starts. If the system brings rain, it could slow the fire’s progress, if high gusts hit the fire with no precipitation, the fire could grow.
Goodrich said monitors on the ground and helicopter water drops will continue to keep the fire in check with 45-50 days left in the northeast Oregon fire season.
Wilderness fires not threatening the boundary, private property, watersheds or other values like merchantable timber and livestock grazing, can be managed to clean up dead and down timber and thin out grand fir that threatens healthy ponderosa pine stands that withstand the heat of wildfires better than fir.
“We are getting really good results with the fire taking out fir and preserving the pine,” Goodrich said. “I am happy with the benefits.”
The fire is producing some textbook effects, Goodrich said. Burning through both the ponderosa at the 5,000-foot level and the subalpine fir about 6,000, it is creating mosaic patterns as opposed to completely burning entire stands.
Currently, there are no area or trail closures, Goodrich said, but advisory signs have been posted at several trailheads.
Fire crews will be clearing trail this week to improve access to Granite Gulch and an existing heliport.
A sprinkler system is being set up a couple of miles downstream from the fire to protect Elk Creek Bridge, should the fire spread that far, Goodrich said.