Three major fires have grown to 94,047 acres in the Umatilla National Forest weeks after being sparked by lightning strikes, with fire crews making slow progress Wednesday, July 21, in containing the wildfires amid dry and windy conditions.
All Forest Service lands, roads, and trails within the Umatilla National Forest remain closed due to extreme fire danger. On Tuesday, July 20, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced that all lands east of the Cascades managed by the state Department of Natural Resources will be closed effective midnight on Friday, July 23, due to fire danger and drought conditions.
Washington Smoke Information reported “good” levels of air quality in the city of Walla Walla on Wednesday, July 21.
Green Ridge Fire
By Tuesday, July 20, the Green Ridge Fire about 30 miles east of Walla Walla had burned 2,068 acres. It remained at 15 percent contained.
Estimates of the size of the Green Ridge Fire 30 miles east of Walla Walla grew by more than 50 percent overnight to 3,248 acres. It remained at 15 percent contained by the morning Wednesday, July 21.
Though the fire has not been particularly fast-moving, crews in that area have struggled with the steep terrain, said James Osborne, operations section chief for the Green Ridge and Lick Creek fires, in a Wednesday briefing. Containing the fire has been slow work, and crews lost some progress Tuesday as fires jumped a control line.
“Yesterday we had a bit of fire activity that got up towards our primary control line and started threatening the control line” along the fire’s southeastern edge, Osborne said. “We’re trying to pick that up with aircraft today and slow that with aircraft today, but what that means is some of our primary line is starting to become compromised.”
The operation lacks sufficient firefighting resources to hold back the fire, and crews are now starting to consider alternative control lines further back from the fire’s eastern edge, Osborne said. There are currently 297 fire personnel assigned to the Green Ridge Fire.
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 large fire has slowed in recent days, with limited movement in timber litter concentrated in unburned islands to the south. Crews are currently focused primarily on patrolling, securing fire lines and mopping up already established portions of the perimeter.
There are 429 fire personnel currently working to contain the fire.
Elbow Creek Fire
The Elbow Creek Fire, located 17 miles northwest of Wallowa, had burned 17,271 acres as of Tuesday night. Crews continue to make slow progress on containing the fire, which was estimated to be 20% contained.
There are 469 personnel assigned to fighting the Elbow Creek Fire. Crews are currently prioritizing keeping the fire south of 62 Road and protecting the community of Troy.
Level 3 and 2 Evacuation Notices issued by the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office Sunday 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 areas.