Three wildfires burning above Lake Owyhee, structures threatened

The Enterprise

VALE — Wildfires were threatening a church camp and private cabins at Lake Owyhee Saturday afternoon as fire crews attacked three large blazes from the air and from the ground.

They were among six fires triggered by lightning storms that moved through Malheur County Fridayevening. Fire crews have been chasing lightning-caused storms much of the week.

Kevin Moriarty of the Vale district office of the Bureau of Land Management reported that the Dry Creek Buttes fire, west of the lake and 20 miles south of Owyhee Dam, had covered about 2,000 acres by Saturday afternoon.

“The fire is burning in general sage grouse habitat,” Moriarty said in his afternoon report. “The fire is threatening the LDS church camp to the east.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates Camp Hycliff, but no information was immediately available about whether the camp was occupied this weekend.

The remote fire was attacked by air before ground crews could reach it Saturday. Four heavy air tankers and one engine and one dozer were on the scene late afternoon with two hot shot crews and 12 engines reported en route.

The Oxbow Fire, west of the dam, had covered about 1,500 acres and the nearby Haystack Rock Fire covered 540 acres. Moriarty said private cabins at Fisherman’s Cove on the lake were at general risk but the fires were burning on the rims this afternoon so there was no immediate threat.

The BLM had tasked five helicopters, five single-engine air tankers, five engines and one hand crew to the Oxbow fire with another two engines, a dozer and a water tender on the Haystack fire.

A local overhead team – a Type 3 team — was scheduled to set up camp Saturday evening at Twin Springs, west of the fires and about 35 miles southwest of Vale.

Fire officials said communities north of the fire, such as Vale and Ontario, can expect smoke to settle in overnight.

Moriarty updated the status of three other fires as well:

  • Monument Peak, 10 miles southeast of Juntura, had burned 150 acres and was 80 percent contained. The fire didn’t threaten structures or private property.
  • Antelope, four miles south of Antelope Reservoir, had burned 37 acres and was smoldering Saturday afternoon. The fire was 80 percent contained with full containment forecast for Saturday evening.
  • Bogus, northwest of Arock, had burned 20 acres and was on private property but no structures were threatened. The fire was 80 percent contained.