Northeast Oregon Wildfire Jumps Into Southeast Washington In Difficult Terrain, High Wind

A view of the Joseph Canyon fire on June 5, 2021. CREDIT: National Wildfire Coordinating Group
A view of the Joseph Canyon fire on June 5, 2021. CREDIT: National Wildfire Coordinating Group

READ ON

A fire grew across state lines in Northeastern Oregon over the weekend, becoming the region’s largest blaze so far this year.

The Joseph Canyon fire more than tripled in size overnight Saturday , after high winds and low humidity fanned an area struck by lightning storms late last week. It continued to grow Sunday, and by Monday morning, the fire’s footprint had swelled to around 4,000 acres of northern Wallowa County in Oregon, and southeastern Washington. The nearest town is Lewiston, Idaho, about 23 miles to the north.

Air tankers and helicopters are helping firefighters on the ground, who face steep, rugged terrain.

“Extreme winds Saturday challenged air resources … but also aided the suppression effort by pushing the active fire line back onto itself in some areas,” according to a Sunday press release from Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The fire reportedly ignited on Bureau of Land Management lands, but soon crossed over into Washington state lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“This is probably one of the most difficult places to fight fire in Oregon,” said ODF deputy administrator Matt Howard in a press release. “Joseph Canyon is known for its extreme terrain, communications challenges, and natural hazards.”

Several ranchers and permittees moved into the area to get cattle out of the fire zone, fire managers said.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team is set to assume command of the fire Monday.

In Southern Oregon, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Sunday for parts of Eastern Lake and Western Harney Counties, where strong, gusty winds and low humidity could easily spread more wildfire. The warning was expected to lift Sunday evening, but similar conditions are possible again Monday.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit opb.org

Related Stories:

A couple embrace Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, while touring an area devastated by the Almeda Fire in Phoenix, Ore. John Locher/AP

‘Nothing Looks Good.’ Across The West, Firefighters Prepare For A Potentially Bad Fire Season

Severe drought has turned forests and grasslands into dry fuels, ready to ignite from a careless camper or a lightning strike. More people are building in areas bordering wildlands, expanding the so-called wildland-urban interface, an area where wildfires impact people the most. Invasive, highly flammable vegetation is spreading uncontrolled across the West. Continue Reading ‘Nothing Looks Good.’ Across The West, Firefighters Prepare For A Potentially Bad Fire Season

The cleanup of toxic debris has been slowed in Malden Wash. after former President Trump held up aid as part of a political dispute with the state's Democratic governor. Kirk Siegler/NPR

Federal Aid Arrived For Devastated Washington Town. It May Not Be Enough For This Fire Season

Last year, former President Trump refused to approve a routine disaster declaration for Malden because he was feuding with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. So that federal aid didn’t start arriving until after President Biden took office and he finally signed the order. Continue Reading Federal Aid Arrived For Devastated Washington Town. It May Not Be Enough For This Fire Season