Crews Make Progress On Two Eastern Oregon Wildfires Despite Erratic Winds

Hermiston, Ore. – Two wildfires, the Hat Rock Fire and the Mount Hebron Fire, ignited in Umatilla County on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Red Flag Warnings and strong winds created challenging conditions, stretching local resources thin. Governor Tina Kotek declared a conflagration on the evening of June 13, activating the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) Green Incident Management Team (IMT) led by Incident Commander Lance Lighty. Six task forces from Clackamas, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, and Yamhill counties joined the IMT to assist.

Three task forces and the IMT arrived on Tuesday night and seamlessly integrated with local crews, continuing operations throughout the night. An additional three task forces joined the efforts upon their arrival at 7:00 AM on Wednesday. The OSFM is working closely with the Oregon Department of Forestry, which is providing air resources and personnel to support firefighting activities.

Chief Scott Stanton of Umatilla County Fire District #1 expressed gratitude to the farmers and volunteers who played a crucial role in the progress made so far. No injuries have been reported, and investigations into the cause of the fires are ongoing.

Hat Rock Fire:

The Hat Rock Fire originated at the intersection of Highways 37 and 730. Umatilla County Fire District #1 responded to the rapidly spreading fire through grass and sagebrush at 10:59 AM on June 13. Mutual aid resources were swiftly dispatched, and evacuation notices were issued for Hat Rock State Park and RV Park, starting with Level 1 and later progressing to Level 2. The Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State Police helped with road closures.

To aid fire operations, the OSFM activated a K-MAX helicopter through Immediate Response, funded by Senate Bill 762. The fire moved northeast, crossing the Oregon-Washington border and advancing through Juniper Canyon. As of now, it has affected an estimated 15,000 acres in Oregon. Crews are actively working on reinforcing containment lines and monitoring flare-ups.

Mount Hebron Fire:

The Mount Hebron Fire broke out northeast of Pendleton near Highway 11. Pendleton Fire and Ambulance responded at 2:08 PM on June 13. Additional mutual aid resources were quickly dispatched, and crews reassigned from the Hat Rock Fire helped contain the fast-moving fire. By nightfall, the fire reached 99% containment, encompassing around 600 acres. Resources remained on-site throughout the night, and a state task force provided further support before the transfer of command.

Firefighters worked tirelessly through the night, strengthening containment lines, extinguishing hot spots, and creating backup plans. No significant growth occurred during that period.

The Hat Rock Fire remains active in Washington and is being managed as part of the Benton Complex Fire. Although the strongest winds have passed, there are still winds from the west-southwest at 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. Winds are expected to calm down in the evening as a cold front passes, reducing temperatures and improving relative humidity. Evacuation levels are currently in effect.

For the latest information on evacuation levels, please consult the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Numerous organizations provided mutual aid to the Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District, including the Echo Fire Department, Irrigon Fire Department, Boardman Fire Rescue District, Pendleton Fire & Ambulance, Pilot Rock Fire District, East Umatilla County Rural Fire Protection District, Oregon Department of Forestry, Umatilla Tribal Fire Department, Gilliam County Fire Services, U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, Heppner Fire Department, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Oregon National Guard – Oregon Military Department.

Stay updated by following the Umatilla County Fire Dist. #1 Facebook page.