Crews douse season's first major wildfire

By Jayson Jacoby July 11, 2012 08:28 am

By Jayson Jacoby

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Firefighters who doused a lightning-sparked blaze in southern Baker County this week were given a hand, as it were, by a blaze that happened more than 20 years ago.

The Glasgow fire, near the Dooley Mountain Highway about 15 air miles south of Baker City, burned 35 acres on Monday. It was ignited about 8 a.m. Monday.

Crews starting mopping up the fire on Tuesday.

Although the blaze was the biggest this year in Baker County, it might have scorched considerably more ground had it had more fuel.

But the lightning bolt struck in a place that was charred by the 12,600-acre Cornet fire in 1986, said Noel Livingston, deputy fire staff for operations for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

That fire killed most of the mature trees in the area.

In the wake of the Cornet fire there’s a mixture of grass and small trees that reseeded naturally.

Those “fine” fuels — especially the grass — ignite easily, Livingston said, but they don’t result in the long flame lengths that can spread a fire long distances in a short period.

The Glasgow fire did reach an area with older, larger ponderosa pines, but the grass in the shade of the big trees was still relatively green, and the blaze slowed, Livingston said.

Crews working on the fire Monday were also aided by three loads of retardant dropped by an air tanker from Canada that’s temporarily stationed in the U.S.

There are two Canada-based tankers in the region to supplement the American fleet, which has been trimmed recently by the crash of one plane that killed four crew, and a hard landing that damaged a second.

Besides the tanker, Monday’s aerial attack on the Glasgow fired included a helicopter from the Oregon Department of Forestry that poured water on the flames, Livingston said.

The fire started on the ridge that divides Glasgow Gulch and Mill Creek. The area is about two miles northeast of the junction of the Dooley Mountain Highway and the Bridgeport Road.