Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Firefighters from Joseph, Enterprise, the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service converged on a large fire that consumed a pair of hay sheds filled with hundreds of bales of hay Tuesday, Oct. 14.

The blaze on Tucker Down Road in rural Joseph was first spotted by ODF personnel returning from an assignment in Imnaha. Before long, the orange glow could be seen for more than a mile and the dark smoke was visible for many miles.

The cause is undetermined but possibly was moist hay that has been known to heat up as it dries and can ignite spontaneously.

Firefighters kept the fire from spreading, but a blaze burning inside hay bales couldn't possibly be extinguished from the exterior, so the blaze was left to burn itself out.

To supply water, water tenders shuttled from Joseph to the fire, dumping water into a portable tank that then was pumped to fire hoses. Additional water was drafted from a nearby irrigation ditch.

Friday, September 19, 2014


After many months free of emergencies in the fire district, Joseph firefighters were dispatched twice Friday, Sept. 19, to the Village at Wallowa Lake.

Shortly before 11 a.m., firefighters responded to the Wallowa Lake Tramway, where someone reported spotting smoke in the forest between Tramway Towers 4 and 5. What appeared from a distance to be white smoke turned out to be a column of water spraying from a broken water main.

Just after 3 p.m., Joseph Fire Department was summoned to secure a landing zone for a medical helicopter at Wallowa Lake Marina after a boating accident.

Joseph's volunteer firefighters do not respond for medical emergencies since they aren't trained to do so, but they perform rescues and sometimes provide backup such as traffic control and, as in this case, landing-zone support. Medical copters require a secure 100-foot-by-100-foot landing space free of obstructions and power lines.

Local medical emergencies are handled by Wallowa County Health Care District's ambulance service. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


The Oregon Department of Forestry, in conjunction with Joseph, Enterprise and Wallowa fire departments and Wallowa Lake Rural Fire Protection District, is restricting all open burning on lands within its protection area in Wallowa County effective July 21.

Previously issued burn permits have been suspended. Recent hot, dry weather has elevated the fire danger throughout the county. 

“We have seen an increase in human-caused fires over the last week and with many firefighters already battling fires in the region we need to reduce the potential of additional starts and let firefighters focus on those ignited by lightning,” said Wallowa County Emergency Services Manager Paul Karvoski. 

Thunderstorms are predicted to pass through Wallowa County over the next few days.

ODF's Northeast Oregon District remains in a Regulated-Use Closure. Reducing human-caused fires within the Northeast Oregon District is the objective of the closure, which includes the following restrictions:

 Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except at designated locations. Designated locations within the Regulated Use Closure area includes but is not limited to the following Oregon State Parks: Emigrant Springs, Ukiah Dale, Catherine Creek, Hilgard Junction, Red Bridge, Wallowa Lake, Minam and Unity Lake. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed.

 Debris burning is prohibited.

 Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water, or at a cleared area free of flammable vegetation.

 Non-Industrial chain saw use is prohibited, between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Chain saw use is permitted at all other hours, if the following firefighting equipment is present with each operating saw: one axe, one shovel, and one 8 ounce or larger fire extinguisher. In addition, a fire watch is required at least one 1 hour following the use of each saw.

 Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is prohibited, between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is permitted at all other hours, if conducted in a cleared area and if a water supply is present.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


A firefighter applies water to an outbuilding while a second structure continues to burn
Water cascades outside a wall as a firefighter
douses hot spots in building's interior
Joseph and Enterprise firefighters responded to a grass fire that spread to nearby structures off Imnaha Highway Thursday afternoon, July 17.

Several acres were blackened and at least two outbuildings sustained heavy damage. A nearby house was saved.

The fire is under investigation, but initial signs indicated the cause either was either electrical  or an earlier permitted burn that reignited.

Assisting on the scene were personnel from the Oregon Department of Forestry and Wallowa County Sheriff's Office.

While the fire was burning, Wallowa Fire Department was dispatched to a simultaneous wildfire in rural Wallowa.

Wallowa County has been the scene of numerous lightning-caused wildfires in recent days because of high temperatures and low humidity in brush and grass.


Due to increased fire danger and dry weather conditions, Phase A of the Public Use Restrictions for campfires, smoking, off-road travel, and chainsaw use will go into effect in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 19. The Seasonal Campfire Restrictions that are currently in place will also be in effect.

“Phase A is the second level of restrictions, generally implemented when the fire danger is moderate to high,” said Bret Ruby, fire staff officer.

The Seasonal Campfire Restrictions that are still in effect and do not apply to designated Wilderness areas and specified exempted developed recreation sites. The activities that fall under the seasonal restrictions include:
  • Campfires allowed only in fire pits surrounded by dirt, rock, or commercial rings and in areas not conducive to rapid fire spread, at a minimum clear of flammable material within a radius of 5 feet from the edge of the pit and free of overhanging material. Use existing pits wherever possible.
  • Campfires must be attended at all times, and completely extinguished prior to leaving.
  • Persons with campfires are required to have an axe, shovel, and one gallon of water in their possession (except in specified developed recreation sites and wilderness areas listed below).
  • Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled gas and wood burning stoves equipped with a chimney that is at least five (5) feet in length with a spark-arresting screen consisting of ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth are allowed.
  • Use of charcoal briquets is permitted within the clearing requirements outlined under #1 above.

Following are the exempted sites:
  • Union Creek Campground & Picnic Area
  • Oregon Trail Interpretive Park
  • Fish Lake Campground
  • Tamarack Campground 
  • Eagle Cap Wilderness
  • Hells Canyon Wilderness
  •  Monument Rock Wilderness
  • North Fork John Day Wilderness

Phase A restrictions include:
  • Seasonal campfire restrictions and requirements described for June 1- October 31 apply (see above).
  • Chainsaws may be operated only between the hours of 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. local time. A one-hour fire watch is required after saw operations cease. Saw operators are required to have an axe (minimum 2 lb head, 26” length), shovel (8” wide, 26” length), and fire extinguisher (minimum ABC 8 oz.) in their possession.
  • Smoking allowed only in enclosed vehicles and buildings, developed recreation sites or cleared areas.
  • No off-road/off-trail vehicle travel or travel on roads not cleared of standing grass or other flammable material; no vehicle travel on those Forest Service roads where access has been impeded or blocked by earthern berm, logs, boulders, barrier, barricade or gate, or as otherwise identified in the Fire Order.
  • The use of exploding targets is prohibited.

The public’s cooperation and awareness of the increasing fire danger is essential to a safe fire season. “Recreationists, firewood cutters, hunters, and other forest users can all help in ensuring a safe fire season,” Ruby said. The public is responsible for knowing if restrictions are in place.

For more information about the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Public Use Restrictions, go to www.fs.usda.gov/goto/PURS.