The fire burning along Highway 730 was 65 percent contained Tuesday morning after crews fought back flames fanned by high winds and extreme temperatures.
The fire — dubbed the Lake Wallula Fire — began Sunday evening and was at approximately 10,250 acres Tuesday.
Highway 730 was closed from Cold Springs Junction to Wallula Junction for most of the day Monday, and Umatilla County Road 37 was closed for part of the day.
Umatilla County Fire District 1 operations chief Jim Forquer said the district got called to the fire about 5 p.m. Sunday night, and as of Monday morning it had spread somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 acres, continuing to burn throughout the day. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
“We’re concerned about fire behavior and the weather expected this morning,” he said Monday morning, calling the fire’s patterns “sporadic.” A news release from the incident management team stated that fighting the fire was complicated by the fact that much of the terrain was difficult to access.
By 5:30 p.m. Monday, Forquer said that fire crews had a “pretty good handle” on containment and were moving into the mop-up phase.
Forquer said Umatilla Rural Fire District, Echo Fire District and other area districts were also on scene, as well as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said area farmers were also helping disc fire breaks. About 80 people were fighting the fire in total, and they were provided air support by helicopter water drops and retardant planes.
Some Hermiston-area residents experienced interruptions to their electricity Monday afternoon as the fire neared Umatilla Electric Cooperative’s Juniper Canyon substation and affected some transmission lines to the Hermiston East Substation. Forquer said the Juniper Canyon substation was shut off briefly as the fire approached but that concern was mitigated.
Temperatures were in the 100s during the early part of the week.
“People need to use a lot of caution the next few days,” Forquer said. “With the hot and dry conditions the fire danger is getting worse every day.”
Highway 730 has re-opened but the public is warned to drive cautiously as there is still an active fire in the area. Updated road closure information is available on www.tripcheck.com and updated power outage information is available on outageviewer.umatillaelectric.com.