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Fighting the flames

Kathy Orr / Baker City herald A bomb squad responded to defuse dynamite found by one of the homeowners’ children. The small crater was left by the explosives and shrapnel was blown 100 feet, some landing in nearby trees.

By La’akea Kaufman

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Before you make the left turn from Baker City on Highway 7 toward Stices Gulch, you see it. Waves of black splashed across the hillside that, with the absence of smoke, look more like strange patterns in a haphazard art project than a natural disaster. 

But the smoldering tree stumps and hot spots littered about the side of Highway 245 toward the Gulch give way to the severity of the situation.

Official says weather aided firefighting efforts

By Joshua Dillen

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At tonight’s public meeting about the Windy Ridge and Cornet fires, a fire official said firefighters made good progress battling the two blazes that have grown together in the last 24 hours.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. at the Nazarene Church, which was filled almost to capacity. 

Operations Section Chief Todd Abell for the Southwest Interagency Incident Management Team said today was “a very good day.”

He explained lower temperatures and other favorable weather conditions helped fire crews to make good progress fighting the estimated 30,000 acre wildfire south of Baker City.

Red Cross Shelter moved

The shelter established by the American Red Cross at Baker Middle School has moved to the Family Life Center at the Baker City Church of the Nazarene, 1250 Hughes Lane (at the corner of Hughes Lane and Cedar Street). The shelter is open 24 hours a day and has food, bedding and toiletries available for evacuees. For more shelter information, call 541-519-2360.

David Morman of Bend, a Red Cross government liaison volunteer, said the shelter is capable of providing 100 beds along with other services. He encouraged people affected by the fires, even those with alternative shelter, to stop by to register with the Red Cross.

"There are things the Red Cross can do for folks, even if they do return to their homes," he said. "And we can work out a plan to provide assistance down the road."

Morman said he and four other Red Cross volunteers from out of town arrived in Baker City Friday. Five other local volunteers also are assisting at the site.

Public meeting moved to Nazarene Church

The public meeting scheduled tonight, Saturday, Aug. 15, to provide information about the Windy Ridge and Cornet fires, has been moved from Baker High School to the Baker City Church of the Nazarene, 1250 Hughes Lane (the corner of Cedar Street and Hughes Lane). It will begin at 6 p.m. in the church sanctuary.

The Sumpter Valley Railroad has canceled trains scheduled Aug. 15 and 16, and the Music in the Meadow event planned for Aug. 15 in Sumpter has been canceled.

Throughout Friday, crews were challenged with extreme fire behavior on the Cornet and Windy Ridge fires caused by high winds and low humidity.

Windy Ridge Fire

The Windy Ridge Fire is located approximately four miles west of Durkee and is burning in grass, sagebrush and timber .

Fire crews worked along the southern edge of the Windy Ridge Fire to build containment lines to prevent the fire from threatening Durkee. 


Friday afternoon update on area fires

Area fires update from the Bureau of Land Management and InciWeb:

New Fire Near Ironside, Windy Ridge, Cornet and Eagle Complex Continue Push

Dry winds Friday afternoon continued to fan the flames of Baker County wildfires.  Updates gathered from fire information websites are summarized in the story, which can be accessed by clicking through the headline.


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."

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