UKIAH — The Birch Creek Fire is burning to the northeast of Ukiah at an estimated 50 acres as of Tuesday, Sept. 15, after forcing evacuations and forest closures on the North Fork John Day Ranger District in the Umatilla National Forest.
“With cooler temperatures overnight fire behavior has moderated, but the fire activity may increase as weather conditions warm up throughout the day,” a press release stated. “(On Sept. 15), firefighters will focus on establishing access points to the fire and identifying anchor points where firefighters can build containment lines.”
In addition to closing the portions of the forest surrounding the fire, the U.S. Forest Service has closed Forest Service Road (FSR) 54, FSR 5411 and FSR 5412. Visitors can take alternate routes out of the area using Yellowjacket Road (FSR 5412 and FSR 5420), FSR 54 south to Highway 244, and FSR 5427 east to Indian Lake.
The fire was reported on Monday, Sept. 14, and the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Forest Service in evacuating hunters and campers from the area.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation as it burns to the northeast through grass and timber. Windy conditions contributed to initial fire growth and visibility remains poor due to smoke from the wildfires still burning on the other side of the state.
According to the release, firefighters constructed a dozer line along the fire’s southwestern edge on Sept. 14 and crews will attempt to extend the fireline to the eastern edge on Sept. 15, while sheriff’s deputies are standing by in case of additional evacuations.
“We still have units on scene this morning assisting fire crews with a mandatory evacuation order in the immediate area to prepare for an anchor line burnout,” stated an update posted to the sheriff’s office Facebook page on Sept. 15.
A local Type 3 Incident Command Team was briefed on the fire the morning of Sept. 15 and assumed command of it at noon, with current suppression and containment resources including the Union Interagency Hotshot Crew, four engines, two hand crews, and two dozers.
The team has asked for more resources as firefighting resources are stretched thin across the state due to the unprecedented wildfires that have raged over the past week.
Fire officials caution the public that fire conditions remain extreme with hot and dry conditions expected to persist throughout the week, the release stated, and public use restrictions regarding campfires, chainsaw use, smoking and off-road travel are in effect.