Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
1550 Dewey Ave, Suite A
Baker City, OR 97814
Storms over the Granite Gulch Fire area generated lightning, hail and rain for a short time Friday.
Today's forecast is calling for mostly sunny conditions, although temperatures will be cooler and humidity levels will remain higher.
"It's possible we'll see an increase in fire behavior, but nothing like Thursday," which was the most active burn day this week, Incident Commander Andrea Holmquist said. "[Relative humidity] are going to stay in the 20s and 30s, and fire activity has been peaking in the teens."
Statistically, the fire interval for any given area in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Is 10 to 25 years, but there are no records of fire in the Granite Gulch area for much longer than that.
"We don't see anything from the Last Chance Fire across the Minam east until now," said Bret Ruby a fire behavior analyst. "It was time."
The normal winnowing out of smaller trees and shrubs hasn't happened, allowing some species to populate more heavily than they should. It's also led to a buildup of standing dead trees affected by disease, beetle infestations or competition for nutrients and water.
Dead vegetation on the forest floor has built up as well, creating the perfect environment for a devastating crown fire to rage through, consuming everything in its path.
"Dead fuel moisture is below 20 percent," said Nathan Goodrich, fire management officer for the Eagle Cap Ranger District. "The lumber you buy at the hardware store is 15 percent."
Firefighters can calculate the potential intensity for a fire based on the type and size of available fuels and the time it takes them to be burn completely unless extinguished. Twigs and branches the size of a pencil burn in an hour, while branches 1 to 3 inches in diameter take 100 hours, or about 4 days. Downed logs can burn for months.
A fire can be considered 100 percent contained meaning there is no chance of the fire spreading beyond established boundaries while heavier fuels continue burning at low levels in the interior and generate smoke for some time afterward.