Among the ranks of Oregon’s major wildfires currently burning, the Eldorado is the forgotten one.

The fire is burning through sagelands and into forest in a barren patch of Oregon between John Day and Ontario. By Sunday morning, the Eldorado had covered 18,600 acres – the equivalent of nearly 30 square miles.

There is little to damage compared to homes lost or threatened in Oregon’s other fires.

Marvin Vetter, Oregon Department of Forestry operations section chief, considered a question about what structures remained at risk in territory stretching from the isolated towns of Unity and Ironside.

“We have a cabin up here,” he said, tapping a fire map to approximate a location outside the fire lines, miles from Unity on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Vetter and his team are charged with containing a fire that started Friday morning and grew to 10,000 acres in 24 hours. They had little to work with as Sunday dawned – 12 engines, seven bulldozers and a lone helicopter. They had no one to work a night shift.

The help on duty help is scattered along a fire perimeter that stretches for miles in a rough circle, straddling U.S. 26.

“We have zero hand crews,” Vetter said, referring to the 20-person crews essential to building fire line.

He calculated that to adequately fight the blaze, he could use 20 such crews – an additional 400 people. He finally got word Sunday afternoon he could get seven crews, diverted from other fires and expected on the line on Monday.

Vetter understands his fire doesn’t rate the priority of others around the Northwest. But he also knows that every day, fire consumes more cattle forage and more timber. Both are hard to grow in one of the driest regions in Oregon.

— Les Zaitz

503-221-8181; @leszaitz

– Click Here To Visit Article Source