Thursday, August 20, 2020

8/20/2020 Umatilla National Forest Fire Update


USDA Forest Service Shield

Pacific Northwest Region
Umatilla National Forest

72510 Coyote Road
Pendleton, OR 97801



Contact:  Darcy Weseman (541) 278-3722

August 20, 2020 – 11:30 a.m.


Umatilla National Forest Lightning Fire Update

PENDLETON, Ore. – Additional new fires have been detected across the Forest following thunderstorms the past few days. Significant lightning activity occurred across much of the Forest, with multiple new incidents on the Umatilla National Forest reported to the Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center (BMIDC) and John Day Interagency Dispatch Center (JDIDC). More smoke reports are expected throughout the next few days as weather conditions continue to stay hot and dry.

Local initial attack resources have been busy responding to these incidents. The majority of the fires are staffed and remain small, less than one acre in size. Fire crews will monitor these fires and continue to watch for additional starts. 

The Walla Walla Ranger District received the most significant fire activity with 30 new fires reported.  The largest of these fires, the Hager Ridge Fire, is approximately 20 acres and located 20 miles east of Mission, Oregon. The fire was reported on Aug. 19 at 12:52 p.m. and is burning in rugged terrain with grass, timber and dead and down trees.  The fire actively burned on all edges yesterday. Gusty winds contributed to increased fire behavior and growth.  Numerous resources aided in initial attack efforts, including support from Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Indian Affairs and aerial resources.  Today firefighters will focus on establishing access points to the fire and securing an anchor point where firefighters can build containment lines. Resources on scene include a handcrew and an engine with additional firefighting resources arriving today. With numerous other starts in the area, the Umatilla National Forest has requested a Type 2 incident management team to manage the Hager Ridge Fire and the other fires in the area, which will be managed collectively as the Hager Complex. The Forest will inbrief the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 3 today at 6 p.m. with plans for the team to take command of the fire tomorrow. An incident command post will be set up at the Pendleton Convention Center. The health and safety of the public and wildland fire responders is top priority and mitigations are being taken regarding group sizes by dispersing resources through separate and smaller fire camps and conducting virtual meetings when possible.

The Walla Walla Ranger District also reported two new fires in Meacham Creek and resources are en route to staff those fires today.

The Pomeroy Ranger District reported three new ignitions. One fire was located near Big Butte Look Out, approximately 23 miles southwest of Clarkston, Washington and is now controlled. Two new fires were reported within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. The Rattlesnake Fire is the largest of these fires and is estimated at five acres. The fire is located 20 miles south of Pomeroy, Washington. The fire is located in rugged terrain and burning in grass, timber with dead and down trees.  Access to this fire is limited due to flood damage within the Tucannon watershed. Resources are en route to staff the fire today.

The Heppner Ranger District picked up seven new fires across the district, with the most significant new start being the Putnam Springs Fire, located approximately 3.5 miles east of Tamarack Look Out. The fire was reported on Aug. 19 at 10:10 a.m. and is burning in grass and timber with dead and down trees. Late afternoon downslope winds increased fire behavior causing significant growth to the south and spotting on the fire. The fire is currently estimated at 75 acres and is 40% lined. A local Type 3 incident commander out of John Day, Oregon, will take command of the fire today at 7 p.m. Current resources on scene include 10 engines and two dozers. Additional resources are on order. Today firefighters will continue to complete direct line construction, where terrain and fuels allow for crews to safely engage, while utilizing aircraft to slow fire spread and cool hotspots within the fire perimeter.

The Rocky Fire is also located on the Heppner Ranger District and is approximately nine miles northeast of Spray, Oregon. The 1-acre fire was reported on Aug. 19 at 7:07 a.m. and is burning in grass, timber and juniper. Initial attack resources were successful in stopping the spread of the fire with support from heavy equipment that was operating nearby on a timber sale on Forest. The fire is 100% lined. Resources on scene include one hand crew, and a dozer. Today’s suppression strategy is to continue to secure the perimeter of the fire, where terrain and fuels allow for crews to safely engage.

The North Fork John Day Ranger District reported twos new fires. Both fires are staffed and remain small, with the largest fire less than 1.5 acres in size. Fire crews will continue engaging these fires today and watch for additional starts.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to persist throughout the week. Increased winds are anticipated today and Friday.

Fire officials want to remind everyone that the current fire danger rating remains at HIGH and Public Use Restrictions involving chainsaw use are in effect. Regulated closures have also been implemented on State and private lands protected by Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) in northeast and central Oregon.

Similar restrictions may be in effect on State and private lands protected by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WA-DNR).  More information can be found on the WA-DNR website at:

For more information regarding Restrictions, please contact:

Umatilla National Forest:

Information Hotline: Toll-Free (877) 958-9663

Twitter: @UmatillaNF

The latest fire information will be posted on the Blue Mountains Fire Information Blog. To receive updates on fires in the Blue Mountains, follow our blog at



A large mountain in the background

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Figure 1 Hager Ridge Fire, taken Aug. 20, 2020. Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Forestry




For further information, please contact:

Umatilla National Forest, Supervisor Office (541) 278-3716

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