S. John Collins/Baker City Herald: A range fire burns this morning about three miles southeast of Baker City.
Nancy Peyron narrates as she watches an air tanker drop hundreds of gallons of retardant ahead of the fire that is burning the grazing land she and her mother, Elizabeth, co-own southeast of Baker City.
"They just dropped another load," Peyron said about 12:30 p.m. as she watched from near Interstate 84 about three miles southeast of Baker City.
It's still not certain what caused the fire that has burned at least hundreds of acres of sagebrush and grass near Lone Pine Mountain, which is north and east of the freeway where it rounds a corner and drops into Baker Valley.
Peyron said the blaze apparently started about 10 feet from the network of cell phone, radio and other towers atop the 5,000-foot mountain which, despite its name, is treeless except for a few scattered junipers.
As of 2 p.m. the fire had burned to near Interstate 84, Peyron said.
Peter Murphy, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the agency is watching the fire and taking preliminary precautions in case the freeway would need to be closed.
There are no homes in the immediate vicinity but there are several ranches on the south side of the freeway, near Old Highway 30.
The communications buildings apparently weren't damaged, Peyron said.
Eagle Valley Communications of Richland has a cell tower on the site, and Baker County has a radio dispatch repeater.
Brandi Sangster at Eagle Valley Communications said none of the company's workers had been at the Lone Pine site for at least the past few days.
Workers aren't able to access the tower this afternoon because of the fire, Sangster said.
Peyron said there were cattle grazing in the area but the animals were not hurt.
The area includes a mixture of private land and public land managed by the BLM, but so far the flames have been confined to private land, said Carolyn Chad, a spokesman for the BLM's Vale District.
Peyron said Larry Morris and his wife, Rocky, who are co-owner of the Peyrons' 6,000-acre property, told her that almost immediately after the fire was reported, several local residents showed up with bulldozers, backhoes and other equipment.
"To me that's what this is really about — how many people showed up to help," Peyron said. "This is what this community is all about."
Three single-engine air tankers are dropping retardant to stop the blaze, and two more tankers have been called in, Chad said.
A helicopter is dropping water on the fire as well.
There are also fire engines battling the blaze.
"We're just really hoping we catch it," Chad said of the blaze, which has been burning downhill to the southeast and toward Interstate 84.
The fire is producing a column of smoke visible from Baker CIty.
There are no homes in the immediate vicinity.
Check back to www.bakercityherald.com for updates.