Indian Creek fire

The Indian Creek fire on Sunday afternoon.

A wildfire in Malheur County between Vale and Juntura grew rapidly after being reported Sunday afternoon, reaching 8,000 acres by Monday morning.

The Indian Creek fire is burning northwest of Highway 20 about 13 miles east of Juntura, according to the Bureau of Land Management’s Vale District. That's about 70 air miles south of Baker City.

Vale District  crews worked well past midnight Sunday, extinguishing spot fires, cutting dozer line and grading existing roads in the area to establish firelines. Aircraft are expected to resume water and retardant drops this morning. 

Nine aircraft dropped retardant to slow the fire’s spread on Sunday.

The blaze was reported about 12:45 p.m. near Jonesboro. Its cause is under investigation.

The Vale District is seeking the public's assistance regarding the fire's cause. It started along Highway 20 near Milepost 203. If anyone saw the fire when it was very small, or noticed any suspicious activity in that area prior to the fire, or has factual information about the start of the fire, they are encouraged to call Vale BLM firefighters at 541-473-6374. Or they can call the WeTip hotline at 1-800-472-7766. The call is toll free and anonymous.

Volunteers from the Juntura Rangeland Fire Protection Association worked on the fire, along with six single-engine air tankers, three multi-engine tankers, 10 fire engines, three bulldozers and two 20-person hand crews.

Strong winds helped the fire grow from about 1,000 acres at 6:30 p.m. to an estimated 5,000 acres by 9 p.m.

A Type 3 incident management team is taking command of the firefighting effort today.

“We won’t hesitate to go ahead and call in a Type 2 team if we think it’s needed,” said Tracy Skerjanic, assistant fire management officer for the Vale District. He noted that extreme fire danger is expected to continue for the next several years, with hot temperatures and a chance of thunderstorms with strong winds and lightning that could start new blazes.

The Indian Creek fire burned around the Burns Paiute Ranch, but no structures were damaged. It is burning primarily on public land that is priority habitat for the sage grouse.

No new fires were reported Sunday in Baker County.

Forest Service fire crews contained a 1-acre fire, started by lightning and reported on Saturday, about 3 miles northwest of Greenhorn.

Residents and the public are encouraged to check the fire restrictions in place for their area before starting a fire, smoking outdoors, or using equipment that could cause a spark.

Restrictions for state and federally-protected lands, including privately-owned property outside of a fire district, can be found at http://bmidc.org/restrictions.shtml For local fire districts, check with the local fire department.

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