In the community

Cause of local range fire is still under investigation

A firefighter extinguishes a line of fire near the Malheur Butte on July 4. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Malheur Enterprise / Kristine de Leon)

VALE – Officials are still investigating the cause of the rangeland fire that burned 184 acres north of Malheur Butte adjacent to the Owyhee Canal on Wednesday, July 4.

Al Crouch, fire mitigation and education specialist with the Vale district of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said he hasn’t made an official determination of the fire’s cause or who may have started it, but it’s possible the fire started because people were shooting targets.

The investigation is proceeding with the Vale BLM, the Ontario Rural Fire Protection District and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.

By late afternoon on Wednesday, crews from the Ontario and Vale fire departments and the Vale BLM suppressed the fire. 

Crews suspected the fire was human-caused soon after responding to the highly visible blaze. Crouch said anyone with information about how the fire started is asked to contact the 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 control the fire.

When fires happen at such jurisdictional intersections, it can make coordination between departments difficult, according to Crouch. 

He said that at last week’s fire, everyone was able to “knuckle down and work together.”