{child_flags:featured}{child_flags:breaking}Blaze near Juntura grows to 8,000 acres

{child_byline}Leslie Thompson

The Argus Observer{/child_byline}

JUNTURA

It is not yet known what started the Indian Creek Fire which is burning in rangeland northwest of Highway 20 outside of Juntura early Sunday afternoon, but high winds have contributed to its rapid growth: It is estimated to be at 8,000 acres this morning, according to a phone update this morning from Larisa Bogardus, spokeswoman for Bureau of Land Management’s Vale District.

The fire was reported at about 12:45 p.m., at Jonesboro, property owned by the Burns Paiute Tribe. By 9 p.m., it was 5,000 acres.

“There were crews working late, late into the night,” she said. “Some didn’t quit till about 2 a.m.”

The fire is burning actively through juniper, sage brush and grasses this morning. It is burning on private and state land and, primarily, on Vale BLM-managed lands in priority habitat for Greater sage-grouse. There are no structures in the area.

Winds have calmed down, Bogardus said, however, that’s isn’t expected to last.

“Unfortunately we expect high winds and thunderstorms later today,” she said.

Thunderstorms could play out through late Tuesday night. The National Weather Service has a red flag warning in place for Malhuer County through midnight Tuesday and an excessive heat warning through 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The High Desert Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire today and will pass it on by the end of the day.

A Type 2 team will be briefed on the fire at 6 p.m. tonight, and assume command Tuesday morning, Bogardus said. That team will bring “more resources and more expertise,” she said.

There are already a combination of air and ground resources working on the blaze. This includes the Juntura Rangeland Fire Protection Association, which is assisting with the response, as well as six single engine air tankers (SEATs), three large air tankers, air attack, ten engines, two hand crews and three bulldozers, according to a news release.

Air support from the fire came from as far away as Washington, Bogardus said. There are six SEATs from Ontario, John Day and Burns; three helicopters from Boise, John Day and Burns; and three large air tankers from Redmond and Moses Lake, Washington, as well as La Grande. As the large air tankers don’t have a local spot to refuel, they typically go back to their base or a more local airport, according to Bogardus.

Other resources on the fire include 10 engines, two hand crews and three bulldozers.

“Residents and the public are encouraged to check the fire restrictions in place for their area before starting a fire, smoking outdoors, or using equipment that could cause a spark,” reads a news release about the blaze.

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The Vale District Bureau of Land Management is seeking the public’s assistance regarding the Indian Creek Fire, which occurred along Highway 20 in Jonesboro near milepost 203 on Aug. 16 at about 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time. If anyone saw the fire when it was very small, or noticed any suspicious activity in that area prior to the fire, or has factual information about the start of the fire, they are encouraged to call Vale BLM firefighters at (541) 473-6374. Or they can call the WeTip hotline at (800) 472-7766; the call is toll free and anonymous.

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Restrictions for state and federally-protected lands, including privately-owned property outside of a fire district, can be found at http://bmidc.org/restrictions.shtml For local fire districts, check with the local fire department.

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Jonesboro is a 6,300 acre property acquired by the Burns Paiute Tribe in 2000, according to an article in the Blue Mountain Eagle in July of 2019. It includes a 345-acre Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, project along the Malheur River with a focus on providing habitat for big game and birds. Native plants and grasses were planted along the stream bank, according to the article and in 2013, the tribe entered an Environmental Quality Incentives Program contract to remove juniper and enhance the sagebrush steppe habitat to promote recovery of the greater sage grouse.

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