Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
1550 Dewey Ave, Suite A
Baker City, OR 97814
Fire activity was minimal Saturday on the Granite Gulch Fire, with no visible smoke outside the drainages of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Although Saturday was sunny and warm, higher humidity prevented the fire from generating enough heat to spread beyond the existing perimeter, Incident Commander Andrea Holmquist said. Since Aug. 28, the fire has spread about 353 acres, just over half a percent of the total fire footprint.
"Much cooler and showery weather should bring wetting rains Sunday through Tuesday, so we expect more of the same fire behavior," she said.
For northeast Oregon, a wetting rain is defined as one-tenth of an inch of precipitation. At 6:30 a.m. there was an 80 percent chance of rain today.
At 5,555 acres, the Granite Gulch Fire encompasses less than 1 percent of the total Eagle Cap Wilderness, yet it is the largest wildfire the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has chosen to actively manage rather than immediately suppress. A slow fire season, the location of the fire, the lack of fire in past decades, and near and long-term weather projections were all factored in to the decision.
Careful management, using strategic water drops to cool the fire's edge and encourage spread into desired areas offset the higher-risk wildfire conditions of July and August. September conditions rapidly increase the odds of season-ending precipitation, up to 50 percent by the end of the month and 90 percent by mid-October.
In addition to improving habitat and wildlife forage, the fire expected to link with an extensive treatment area that has been implemented in phases along the Minam River since the 1990s, creating a natural fuel break that will minimize the effects of future wildfires and aid in protecting Red's Horse Lodge, Minam River Lodge and private inholdings for years to come.
"We're one of the only forests with a Wilderness [treatment] program," said Nathan Goodrich, fire management officer for the Eagle Cap Ranger District.
Forest-wide Phase A Public Use Restrictions and an area closure around the fire zone remain in effect. One or both will be lifted when fire officials and forest managers determine it is safe to do so.