Indian Creek Fire spreads to nearly 50,000 acres as smoke hinders air attacks

Firefighters manage a burnout operation on the Indian Creek Fire on Thursday, Aug. 20, to help contain the fire. (BLM photo)

JUNTURA – Smoke from wildfires is hindering the use of aircraft to contain the Indian Creek Fire, a range fire that new mapping shows has burned nearly 50,000 acres east of Juntura.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said in an update posted Saturday morning that 317 people are assigned to the fire, which started along U.S. Highway 20 on Sunday, Aug. 16, about 13 miles east of Juntura.

The fire, mapped at 48,930 acres, spread to the north and northeast, burning up and over Kelsey Butte and near the Indian Creek Ranch outside Westfall. The fire was 20% contained.

The BLM said the fire is moving on the west flank toward the 2015 Bendire Fire.

“Large amounts of dead wood and juniper have been cut and piled to improve habitat, but conditions have not allowed for them to be burned. Those slash piles are now a concern for firefighters, as they are ready fuel if the fire continues spreading to the west/northwest,” the BLM statement said. 

The agency said burnout operations Thursday helped reinforce contingency lines around the Becker Roundhouse located near the northeast corner of the fire. It said that about 30,000 acres of the fire are located in critical sage-grouse habitat in the Bully Creek Priority Area of Conservation.

A map from Aug. 21 from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management shows the range of the Indian Creek Fire burning between Juntura and Vale. The map shows the fire at 40,345 but new mapping released Saturday put the fire at more than 48,000 acres.

For comparison, a BLM map from Aug. 20, when the fire was estimated at 20,000 acres.

NOTE TO READERS: If you have photos or information regarding the fire, please email [email protected].