Rye Valley Road resident: Fire settled down overnight

By Baker City Herald July 23, 2014 05:35 pm

By Jayson Jacoby

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The fire, as near as Julia Biggerstaff could tell, was eight miles from her home.

But she was still worried.

Biggerstaff lives on Rye Valley Lane about a mile up the valley from Interstate 84.

The area is in southeastern Baker County between Weatherby and Huntington, about 45 miles from Baker City.

Biggerstaff had taken Rhino, her Rhodesian ridgeback dog, to the vet’s office in Weiser, Idaho, on Wednesday.

She was driving home about 5 p.m. when she saw smoke billowing from the parched hills south of the freeway.

“I thought, ‘that’s up near me,’ ” Biggerstaff said.

When she got home the smoke was thick, pushed down Dixie Creek from Rye Valley.

Biggerstaff drove up the valley and saw that the 2,000- acre fire, sparked by lightning late Tuesday, was mainly confined to the upper part of the valley, most of which is part of the Three Valleys Ranch.

Despite the distance between her home and the flames, Biggerstaff was concerned.

She has water rights for Clear Creek, a tributary to Dixie Creek, which parallels Rye Valley Road.

But Clear Creek has dried up.

Biggerstaff, who has lived in the area for 16 years, said she has scarcely enough water for her lawn — not nearly sufficient to wet down her property in case the fire comes close.

She said she’s never seen drier conditions in the area.

“It’s a bad year for everybody,” Biggerstaff said.

Conditions are more tranquil this morning.

At 7:15 a.m. Biggerstaff said she couldn’t even smell smoke.

“I’m looking up the valley and the sky is just as blue as can be,” she said. “You wouldn’t even know there was a fire up there.”

Biggerstaff said fire trucks from several local agencies drove past her home Wednesday evening.

“They seem to be on top of it,” she said.

The Rye Valley fire is one of at least 13 new lightning-caused blazes on the BLM’s Vale District.

Another fire has burned an estimated 6,000 acres near Brogan, in northern Malheur County.