White River Fire
UPDATED, AUG. 19, NOON.
The White River Fire (previously referred to at the Bonney Meadows fire) was discovered Aug. 17 by fire personnel in the White River drainage on the Barlow Ranger District. The fire is located 13 miles southeast of Government Camp and the closest community is Sportsman's Park eight miles to the east, according to the Wasco County Sheriff's Department.
As of 9 p.m. on Aug. 18 (most recent update as of press time), the fire was approximately 150 acres. Firefighters are encountering increased fire behavior due to steep terrain and hot and dry conditions. Multiple aircraft, engine modules, handcrews, a hotshot crew, and heavy equipment are assigned to the fire.
"Monday's temperatures reached 100F with winds blowing 12-15 MPH, which tested containment efforts," said a press release. Wind has primarily directed smoke eastward toward Rock Creek Reservoir and Wamic.
Approximately 60 firefighters are working the fire, according to the Sheriff's Office. Hand crews with support from a dozer are establishing a fire line.
Fire personnel have closed forest road 48 at the junction of Forest Roads 43/48 and junction of FR 4885/48 to ensure firefighter and public safety.
Fire personnel have cleared forest visitors from the following recreational sites: Bonney Meadows Campground, Boulder Lake, Camp Windy, and Forest Creek Campground, White River Station.
Rock Creek Campground is open, but access should be made from the east.
The fire cause is still unknown.
Barb Ayers, Hood River County emergency services director, said, “Everyone please note that fuels (a.k.a. dry vegetation) are bone dry and with strong Gorge winds, our fire risk is high. Please share the fire prevention and safety message with those in your circles.”
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Old Dalles Road Fire
On Monday night near Pine Grove in Hood River County, a four-helicopter rotation came to the rescue when fire broke out just east of Old Dalles Road.
The fire burned timber starting around 6 p.m. off Oak Ridge Road, in the Pine Grove area.
The fire was kept to about 1.5 acres (smaller than a Monday night published post) thanks to rapid action by air and ground responders, and is contained, Chief Greg Borton of Wy’East Fire District said Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. No structures were damaged, though flames did come close to one out building.
“If not for the aerial attack getting to it when it did, the fire would have been much bigger,” Borton said. “They had water on it before we were there on the ground,” he said.
When a pair of tall firs erupted in flame in the middle of the fire zone, at about 7:30 p.m. after the fire line was in place, a helicopter was hovering nearby as if expecting the outburst, and doused the 50-foot column of flame. A second helicopter was circling nearby, looking for the best target, and doused the trees with its load.
The “saving grace,” according to Borton, was that helicopters were already stationed nearby, at the Mosier Creek fire response. In addition, ODF immediately dispatched an engine and ground crew along with fire managers.
All Hood River County fire agencies responded, along with Mosier Fire Department. Gorge Scenic Area and Oregon Department Forest crews. Hood River County Sheriff was on scene along with Oregon State Police, Pacific Power and private forestry crews. “We had a really good turnout,” Borton said.
The blaze burned in deciduous and coniferous stands of trees and some open scrubland, but crews were able to get fire lines around it before it could spread to nearby structures.
The fire is under investigation. Neighbors reported hearing a loud “pow” suggesting a transformer blowing, though electrical power stayed on other than flickering for a few moments. Officials noted that while power lines were down in the fire area, it is too soon to know if the electrical issue was the cause of, or caused by, the fire.
Crews from area agencies, with help from four helicopters pouring water on the fire, got a fire line around the blaze by around 7:30 p.m., according to Oregon Department of Forestry’s Kyle Nairns. The helicopters were already in the area fighting the Mosier Creek Fire, according to Nairns.
Pacific Power dispatched several vehicles to the area, and private firefighting crews were also called in. Hood River County Sheriff’s Office were stationed at Old Dalles and Hidden Oaks to limit non-essential vehicle access.