A potent thunderstorm that swept across the Elkhorn Mountains and Baker Valley Wednesday night spawned dozens of lightning strikes and sparked multiple fires, including three in the Baker City watershed on the east slopes of the Elkhorns about 10 miles west of Baker City.
The largest of the watershed fires is estimated at about 3 acres, and Forest Service crews are working on that fire this morning, said Renae Crippen, manager of the Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center at the La Grande Airport.
Two other fires were reported in the watershed, both in the Marble Creek Pass area, and crews were en route to those fires as well, Crippen said.
Peter Fargo, public affairs officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said firefighters are working on all three fires this morning, and aircraft are on standby if needed. Today's cooler temperatures, with much higher humidity, should help crews corral the fires, Fargo said.
"Protecting the Baker City Municipal Watershed is a high priority, so our objective is to put these fires out as soon as possible and minimize acres burned,” said Kendall Cikanek, Whitman District Ranger for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. “There is no imminent threat to municipal watershed infrastructure.”
A reconnaissance flight to search for fires is planned at 10 a.m. today, and fire lookouts across the region will also be scanning for smoke this morning.
The storm also brought gusty winds and, in places, torrential rain.
Areas in Baker City received about one-third of an inch of rain in less than half an hour, but the Baker City Airport, about 3 miles north of town, reported only a trace. A weather station near the head of Elk Creek, close to where the 3-acre fire is burning, recorded just 0.02 of an inch of rain.