Crews anticipate arrival of Vinegar Fire

By Chris Collins August 21, 2013 12:37 pm

S. John Collins/ Baker City Herald Helicopters drop a blue gel that helps prevent the spread of flames at the Vinegar Hill fire southwest of Granite.
 

By Chris Collins

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Fire crews have been building containment lines around the Vinegar Fire burning in the Greenhorn Unit of the North Fork of the John Day Wilderness Area as they wait for the fire to reach them.

“Everything is going well,” Brian Watts, incident commander, said Tuesday from his post at the Crane Flat base camp. “We’re being patient. There is no containment yet because it hasn’t reached our lines yet. It has grown 50 to 100 acres in the last three days.”


There are 561 people working on the fire. The firefighters have come from the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur national forests and include a Vale Hot Shot crew and a 20-person crew from Georgia, Watts said.

Most of them are staying at the base camp. Others, who have been working on a containment line along the Ben Harrison Trail on the north side of the fire, have established their own camp.

On Tuesday, helicopters continued to drop water and the foam product Thermo Gel on the fire as it burned in stands of subalpine fir and lodgepole pine on the southeast and east sides of the fire. The substance coats the trees and ground cover to protect it and also suppresses fire, said Steve Simmons, vice president of Thermo Technologies at Bismarck, N.D.

On recommendation of the fire incident management team, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office has downgraded the evacuation notice today.

The two people at the Alamo Mine area, who had been on Level 2 alert, are now at Level 1 along with the few residents at Greenhorn. Watt said Level 1 tells people to “get ready,” Level 2 tells them “to get set,” and Level 3 advises them to “go.”

Fire management teams will be in transition over the next few days as the team at the scene moves out and a new crew moves in. After 14 days, team members are required to take at least two days off before they are available to go out again, said Anne Maloney, public information officer.

Weather conditions were expected to change today with a chance of thunderstorms.

Areas near the fire, including Olive Lake, and roads remain closed. More information about the closures is available by calling Vinegar Fire information at 541-755-9003.