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Effort to protect Baker County homes is a statewide endeavor

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Damon Simmons is the information officer with the Incident Command Team.

By Chris Collins

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Firefighters from around the state poured into the Baker High School parking lot Thursday afternoon with their minds set on saving property threatened by wildfires in Baker County.

They traveled across Oregon in fire engines from departments including Scappoose, Newberg, Portland, Albany, Amity, Philomath, Clatskanie, Molalla, Yamhill County, Columbia River and Mist-Birkenfeld.

Fires continue to rage

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald The Windy Ridge fire torches trees southeast of Baker City Thursday afternoon.

Structures, Including Homes, Burned In Stices Gulch As Multiple Wildfires Ravage Baker County

Two of the bigger fires in Baker County in the past quarter century raced across thousands of acres of sagebrush and forest Wednesday and Thursday south and southeast of Baker City. 

Highway 7 closed, new evacuations

Highway 7 has been closed between Baker City and Sumpter this afternoon and some residents along Highway 7 are being asked to leave their homes.

A Level 3 evacuation notice has been issued for residents living on the east side of California Gulch to the highway and from Old Auburn Road south to the highway and everyone living within those boundaries, said Damon Simmons, spokesman for the structural firefighting Incident Command Team.

Unknown number of structures burned in Stices Gulch

Damon Simmons, the information officer with the firefighting team that arrived Thursday to help protect structures from the Windy Ridge and Cornet fires, said this morning that an unknown number of structures in Stices Gulch burned on Thursday.

Simmons said crews will assess the situation later today.

See more in today's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

Commissioner Mark Bennett talks about efforts to protect Stices Gulch homes

Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett said at 7:45 p.m. today that he had recently talked with aerial firefighting officials within the past hour who said the Windy Ridge fire has not jumped Interstate 84 southeast of Baker City, although south winds continue to push the blaze toward the north.

“They’re having a heck of a time with it,” Bennett said. “The fire behavior was just unbelievable."

Gov. invokes conflagration act, structure protection crews heading to Baker County

Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act for the Cornet fire in Baker County, and teams of fire crews that specialize in protecting homes and other structures are en route and scheduled to arrive this afternoon, said Jason Yencopal, Baker County Emergency Management director.

As of 8 a.m., the county did not have any information about whether any structures have been damaged by the Windy Ridge or Cornet fires, Yencopal said.

Cornet fire crosses Dooley Mountain Highway summit

The Cornet fire has crossed the Dooley Mountain Highway summit as of 4 p.m., said Jamie Knight, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Knight said it’s not clear how far to the north the fire has moved. The fire’s spread in that direction prompted Baker County officials to ask residents in Stices Gulch to evacuate earlier this afternoon. Most of the homes in Stices Gulch are about two miles from the Dooley Summit.

Denny Creek resident ready to leave if evacuation level increases from 2 to 3:

Leigh Heart doesn’t know whether he’ll have evacuate his home and his parents’ property along Denny Creek Road southwest of Baker City as the Cornet fire continues to spread.

But Heart still has decisions to make.

“What gets left behind,” he said about 1:30 this afternoon.

Stices Gulch residents prepare for possible evacuation as Cornet fire burns

Photo courtesy of Tanner O'Grady/ A tanker drops retardant at the Cornet fire Tuesday.

By La’akea Kaufman

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Morgan and Tammey Rust are sitting in lawn chairs on the freshly poured concrete foundation of their home Tuesday evening, waiting to hear whether they'll have to evacuate their property at 34904 Stices Gulch Road.

The narrow gully is in a ponderosa pine forest just west of the Dooley Mountain Highway about 12 miles south of Baker City.

Level 1 evacuation notice for Stices Gulch

Press release from Baker County Emergency Management:

Currently there are three fires within Baker County: in the Hereford area (on the back side of Black Mountain), in the East Eagle area, and in the Burnt River Canyon area.  Baker County Emergency Management is advising residents in the areas of East Eagle and Stices Gulch of the danger.  A level 1 evacuation notice has been issued for Stices Gulch.  A Code Red notification has been sent to subscribers in the respective areas. 

A Level 1 Evacuation notice means residents should “be ready” for potential evacuation, according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area and monitor emergency services websites and local media outlets for information. This is the time to prepare and take precautions to move people with special needs, mobile property and (under certain circumstances) pets and livestock.

Sheriff Travis Ash said the Dooley Mountain Highway (State Route 245) is closed to all but firefighting traffic this evening.

"We want to limit traffic to avoid any accidents," Ash said. 

Tom Strandberg, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman, said the road is closed between Salisbury Junction at Highway 7, about 10 miles south of Baker City, and at the junction with Oregon Highway 26 just northwest of Unity. Strandberg cautioned travelers to stay on main highways and to avoid detours on forest roads that might be identified by GPS devices. For updates, visit TripCheck.com or call 511/800-977-6368.

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