Elbow Creek Fire

Smoke rises from the Elbow Creek Fire on Friday, July 16, 2021, in the Grande Ronde River drainage near Mud Springs in northwestern Wallowa County.

After days of concern from fire officials that a passing lightning storm could spark additional fires in the Umatilla National Forest overnight, some firefighters assigned to the nearby Green Ridge and Lick Creek fires were sent Wednesday, July 21, to respond to a small lightning-caused fire in the Slick Ear area.

Other spots in the Blue Mountains are also being monitored for potential fires after numerous reported lightning strikes.

All Forest Service lands, roads and trails within the Umatilla National Forest remain closed due to extreme fire danger. All lands east of the Cascades managed by the state Department of Natural Resources will be closed effective midnight Friday, July 23, due to fire danger and drought conditions.

Elbow Creek Fire

The Elbow Creek Fire, located 17 miles northwest of Wallowa, has burned 18,599 acres as of Wednesday, July 21. It is 20% contained.

The fire’s growth and location amid steep canyons has caused the Elbow Creek Fire to increase in priority, according to an update posted to the InciWeb incident information system, and fire officials hope additional resources will be allocated in the coming days.

There were 469 firefighting personnel assigned to fighting the Elbow Creek Fire as of Tuesday night, and an additional six crews arrived Tuesday to support current suppression efforts.

Fire officials are concerned about the fire’s growth in the Elbow Creek drainage, where the fire jumped from the east side of the creek to the west side Tuesday afternoon.

Level 3 and 2 evacuation notices issued by the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday, July 18, remain in effect. Wallowa County commissioners are asking residents to stay away from the areas of Promise and Troy to allow firefighters access to the fire.

Green Ridge Fire

Estimates of the size of the Green Ridge Fire, 30 miles east of Walla Walla and south of Dayton, grew by more than 50% overnight to 3,248 acres. It remained at 15% contained by Wednesday morning, July 21.

A Level 1 evacuation notice, meaning residents should be ready for possible evacuation, remains in effect for a broad area north of the fire.

Lick Creek Fire

The Lick Creek Fire in Asotin County had burned 73,528 acres and was 45% contained as of Wednesday, July 21. The largest fire currently burning in the Blue Mountains, the Lick Creek Fire has slowed in recent days as crews focus on strengthening control lines and mopping up secured areas.

Level 1 evacuation orders are still in effect for Garfield County northwest of the fire and the Cloverland area. Level 2 evacuation orders, which indicate residents should be ready to leave their homes at a moment’s notice, remain in place for the Grouse Flats area south of the fire.

Emry Dinman can be reached at emrydinman@wwub.com or 425-941-5829.

Reporter covering agriculture, Walla Walla city and county government, and other topics.

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