Lightning sparks blazes; city, state and feds impose fire restrictions
U.S. Forest Service photo Smoke from the Hurricane Creek fire in the Eagle Cap Wilderness billows above Highway 82 in Wallowa County. The lightning-caused fire has forced the closure of the Hurricane Creek trailhead.
By Jayson Jacoby
Northeastern Oregon’s reprieve from the fire season is over.
A series of lightning storms, combined with the hot, dry weather that has dominated during July, has brought more than a dozen wildfires to the region this week.
And with no significant change in the weather forecast, local, state and federal agencies will soon impose more stringent fire restrictions.
The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, starting Saturday, will prohibit the use of chain saws between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.
Firewood cutting is still allowed, but chain saws can’t be used during that seven-hour period.
Also taking effect Saturday on the Wallowa-Whitman is a ban on driving motorized vehicles off designated roads, or on roads that are blocked by an dirt berm, logs, boulders, gates or other barricade.
The Oregon Department of Forestry on Tuesday instituted a regulated use closure, which tightens fire restrictions on lands the agency protects.
A new wildfire has burned an estimated three acres this afternoon near Mount Ireland, about eight miles northwest of Sumpter.
A fire engine crew is working on the blaze, which was reported at 3 p.m.
The fire is between Downie Lake and the Bald Mountain mine, about a mile southeast of the fire lookout on Mount Ireland’s summit.
The cause of the fire isn’t listed on the website for the Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center — http://bmidc.org/index.shtml.
All open burning, including burn barrels, will be banned in Baker City starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Fire Chief Jim Price announced the burn ban in a press release this afternoon.
The restriction will remain until a significant change in the weather.
More information is available by calling the Baker City Fire Department at 541-523-3711.
The Baker City Council has canceled its regular meeting schedule for July 22.
City Manager Mike Kee said there were few items, none critical, on the Council's agenda.
It was also possible that with councilors being out of town there wouldn't be a quorum of at least four councilors attending.
The Council's next regularly scheduled meeting wil be Aug. 12.
Baker Sanitary Service is asking the Baker County Planning Commission to allow the company to accept waste from Grant and Wallowa counties.
Baker Sanitary currently buries trash from Baker and Union counties at the landfill the company owns near Sutton Creek, about three miles southeast of Baker City.
The Planning Commission will consider the request during its meeting Thursday, July 24 at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St.
A lightning-caused fire has burned about 100 acres in the Eagle Cap Wilderness near Joseph, and Forest Service officials said the fire has the potential to grow considerably.
The Hurricane Creek Fire is burning in dense timber on steep slopes in the Dunn Creek area about one-half mile from the Hurricane Creek trailhead.
The fire was reported at 4:30 a.m. Monday.
The Hurricane Creek trailhead is closed.
Although the Forest Service has allowed many lightning fires to burn in the Eagle Cap over the past dozen or so years, fire crews are working on the Hurricane Creek fire. They are using "minimum suppression techniques," designed to prevent the fire from burning outside the wilderness and potentially threatening private property.
The fire has produced large columns of smoke visible from much of the Wallowa Valley.
Lightning-Caused Fire Near Medical Springs
By Jayson Jacoby
The fire started in a patch of sagebrush but Phil Whitley said the flames spread so fast he almost could have believed the fuel was something more volatile.
“It took off like someone poured kerosene on it,” Whitley said this morning, just a few hours after he and firefighters from several local agencies had corralled a lightning-sparked blaze near Medical Springs about 17 miles northeast of Baker City.
The fire started about 10:40 p.m. Sunday on the west side of Highway 203 between Wirth and Blue Mountain Ridge roads.
Whitley, who is chief of the volunteer Medical Springs Rural Fire Protection District, said the fire started on his property.
His son and daughter-in-law, Wayne and April Whitley, live nearby, and April was the first to see the flames.
See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald.
Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally Brings Thousands Of Riders To Baker City
Editor’s Note: Coby Hutzler is working for the Herald this summer as an intern through the Charles Snowden Program. We’ll publish a profile story about Coby later this month.
Kathy Orr /Baker City Herald Feeling the wind in their face and the freedom of rural Eastern Oregon, these bikers experience the vistas of the snow-capped mountains and green valleys on their way to Hells Canyon east of Baker City.
By Coby Hutzler
The Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally brought riders to Baker City from all over the country, on all kinds of machines, with all kinds of stories.
Here are a couple of them.
Neal Chamberlain from North Powder has been riding motorcycles since 1966 — including a 3ﬁ-year stint in the Air Force that ended in 1972.
Then, in 1974, he had a motocross accident that fractured his C6 and C7 vertebrae, stripping him of the use of his legs and almost all the use of his arms and hands.
Though he had been racing motocross for a few years before his crash, the accident didn’t happen during a race.
“I was just goofing off,” Chamberlain said. “That’s usually when you get hurt, is when you’re screwing around.”
Chamberlain gets around these days in a powered wheelchair.
“I’ve been in the chair 40 years,” he said.
Chamberlain’s injury didn’t stop him from riding, though, and while he’s had a couple of special project bikes over the years to accommodate his chair, the latest is a three-wheeled Honda 750 called “The Dragon Wagon.”
See more in Monday's issue of the Baker City Herald.
Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald A 500-horsepower V-8 engine from a Corvette motor moves this Harley-Davidson Boss Hoss motorcycle owned by Frank and Debra Saniti of Boring, Ore. They spent Thursday morning cleaning and polishing the bike at Baker High School in preparation for Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, which continues through Sunday. Usually touring on two wheels, the Sanitis traveled by motor home and a trailer for their first-time participation at the Baker City event. “This is a great town. We love it!” Frank says. People are friendly, the city and streets are clean and the historic aspect is incredible, he said.
The number of motorcycles might not be the only record set this weekend in Baker City.
How about tents?
The grassy fields around Baker High School resemble nothing so much the camp firefighters assemble when a big blaze is going.
Steve Folkestad, who with his brother, Eric, started the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally, expects as many as 8,000 riders to converge on Baker City this weekend.
A goodly percentage of that number was already here this morning, based on the frequency of Harley V-Twin reverberations bouncing off downtown buildings.
Although motorcycles will be parked along Main Street (closed to other traffic) all weekend, the official show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Baker City Police on Wednesday arrested a local man who they believe stole items from several vehicles in Baker City over the past several days.
Patrick Cleveland, 33, who recently moved here from Montana, is charged with five counts of unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and four counts of theft, one of which is a felony charge.
Police are investigating several other thefts of items from cars that have happened over the past two months.
See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald.