Joseph State Airport, usually populated only by small private planes, is host to several helicopters as wildland firefighters work to control the 530-acre Cuba fire and 16 small fires started by lightning during a thunderstorm July 16.
Along with their ground support crews, copters contracted by the U.S. Forest Service are based midway along the runway and are visible from the entrance to the Wallowa County landfill transfer station. The copters are used for reconnaissance, water drops and fire retardant drops.
The Cuba fire in rugged terrain of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is across the Snake River in Idaho, but just 30 miles from Joseph. It was reported to be 75 percent contained as of Saturday, July 20.
The Joseph airport frequently is used by firefighting aircraft during the summer fire season because of its proximity to fire-prone forested areas including the Wallowa-Whitman, Eagle Cap Wilderness and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.