Butte fire still under investigation

A fire crew stamps out the flames of the Malheur Butte fire. (The Enterprise/Max Egener)

A range fire burned 184 acres Wednesday afternoon in a highly-visible blaze north of Malheur Butte adjacent to the Owyhee Canal.

Crews from the Ontario and Vale fire departments and the Vale district of the federal Bureau of Land Management suppressed the fire by late afternoon.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by fire departments and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, but authorities say it was likely human-caused.

“We’re still gathering information and talking to witnesses, but we have a couple suspects we’re looking into,” said Al Crouch, the fire mitigation and education specialist with Vale BLM.

Crouch said anyone with information about how the fire started is asked to contact the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.

Most of the fire burned on private land, according to Crouch.

 “Only about one acre of BLM land was burned,” he said.

Fire crews used several fire engines, a helicopter, a single-engine air tanker and a fire bulldozer to get the fire under control.

When fires happen at such jurisdictional intersections, it can make coordination between departments difficult, according to Crouch. He said yesterday everyone was able to “knuckle down and work together.”

On Thursday morning, fire departments sent crews back to the area to continue monitoring the edges of the fire. “After today it should be a done deal,” Crouch said.