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Crews wrestle wildfires into submission

Published on August 23, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on September 20, 2012 10:30AM


Capital Press

Major wildfires in Oregon, Nevada and Washington were being mopped up Aug. 22, but not without heavy losses.

The Holloway Fire has been contained in northern Nevada and was 97 percent contained in southeastern Oregon as of Aug. 22. It burned 461,047 acres, much of it grazing allotments critical to cattle ranches and home to wildlife.

The fire was started by lightning 25 miles east of Denio, Nev., on Aug. 5, and spread throughout the Trout Creek Mountains of Nevada and Oregon.

The fire was stopped in the northeast on the edge of the Oregon Canyon Mountains by direct attack by hot shot crews and "a lot of water," said Mark Wilkening, an information officer for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Vale, Ore.

Crews held a line against flames 3 to 4 feet tall "because we knew the impact of another 60,000 acres on those ranchers," he said.

The 12-Mile Ranch, in particular, owned by Richard and Jeanette Yturriondobeitia, lost a lot of grazing allotment in the earlier Long Draw Fire and would have lost more had not the Oregon Canyon Mountains been saved. Neighboring Whitehorse Ranch lost huge amounts of grazing allotment.

The fire was spotty in some portions of high country, Wilkening said, leaving areas unburned. Officials are assessing the potential for erosion from future rain, he said.

David Herman, owner of the Whitehorse, could not be reached for updated comment but earlier said at least one calf died in the fire. Wilkening didn't know of any livestock loss.

Meanwhile, an Aug. 19 lightning strike started the Sardine Fire 10 miles from Durkee, Ore., and 10 miles from the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The fire burned 6,070 acres, threatened one structure but did not kill any livestock before being contained Aug. 21, Wilkening said.

The 10-Mile No. 2 burned 50 acres close to the earlier 10-Mile Fire in southeastern Oregon, near Nevada. It was quickly contained by firefighters from McDermitt.

The 23,450-acre Taylor Bridge Fire between Ellensburg and Cle Elum, Wash., was 90 percent contained as of Aug. 22 with full containment expected Aug. 24.

"We have one little section where we're struggling to get the line connected up through a bunch of rock and rough terrain," said Matt Comisky, a fire information officer.

It was in the Hidden Valley area of Swauk Creek. More than 1,000 firefighting personnel were demobilizing.

Kittitas County officials again revised their estimate to 57 homes and cabins and 26 other structures destroyed and 10 houses and cabins damaged for a total estimated loss of more than $8 million. Fire suppression was estimated at $8 million.

Some swine and one horse appear to be the only livestock lost in the fire, said Rick Daugherty, a livestock investigator with the state Department of Agriculture in Ellensburg.

A lot of livestock were saved by community efforts, he said.

Timber and some range and pasture burned but there was little or no crop land in the area, said Anna Lael, manager of the Kittitas County Conservation District.

The 11,299-acre Buffalo Lake Road Fire, five miles north of Coulee Dam, Wash., was contained Aug. 19. It was ignited by lightning on Aug. 14. Two barns burned and nine homes and the communities of Elmer City and Coulee Dam were threatened.


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