Groups of hikers in the Eagle Cap Wilderness noticed three fires in a recent 5-day period, doused the blazes and then reported them to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest so firefighting crews could hike in and make sure any embers were cold, said Todd Pederson, assistant fire management officer for the Wallowa-Whitman’s Wallowa Fire Zone, based in Enterprise.
The trio of fires, all of which happened in the same small section of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, illustrates the persistent fire danger even as summer wanes and nighttime temperatures dip.
“Our fire danger just keeps increasing,” Pederson said.
The first fire was reported Wednesday, Sept. 9, the second on Thursday, and the largest, blaze was reported Sunday.
The Sunday fire burned an area about 20 feet by 40 feet, Pederson said.
A group of 18 hikers carried water from the West Fork of the Wallowa River to douse the flames, he said. One of the hikers used an emergency notification device to report the fire to the Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office, which then forwarded the report to the Forest Service.
Forest Service firefighters hiked to the site Sunday and returned Monday to make sure the fire didn’t rekindle.
One of last week’s fires clearly was an abandoned campfire that had spread, Pederson said.
The origin of the other two, including Sunday’s larger blaze, isn’t as obvious, although they were definitely human-caused as there has been no lightning in the area recently, he said.
“Having the public report fires is a huge help for us,” he said.
“We want to put out a big thank you to those folks,” he said.