A thick pall of smoke descended on the Mid-Columbia on Monday, and while the smoke had cleared by Tuesday morning, the regional fire threat endures.
The smoke was so thick on Monday afternoon that it fully obscured the opposite shores of the Columbia River. The apparent smoke sources were the White River Fire and wildfires on Warm Springs tribal lands in Jefferson County and near Breitenbush Hot Springs in eastern Marion County.
The fires are in three counties but are located within about 25 miles of each other. Evacuation notices are in place in the Detroit canyon and Idanha areas near Breitenbush.
Smoke also came from fires in eastern Washington state, and a small fire broke out Monday on U.S. Forest Service property leased by Mt. Hood Meadows, 20 miles south of Hood River, though its smoke output was minimal, according to Heather Ibsen of U.S.F.S.
White River Fire, in western Wasco County, has burned about 17,500 acres and is 60 percent contained and had not grown in about 48 hours, according to an Oregon Department of Forestry press release. A total of 1,000 personnel are on the fire, which officials said was caused by lightning.
Crews continued improving containment lines, checking for residual heat, and extinguishing smoldering stumps and logs near the fire perimeter. Ten fire-suppression helicopters were based at Pine Hollow airstrip, near the communities of Wamic and Tygh Valley.
Resource advisors (trained in minimizing suppression damage and repairing fire lines) worked with fire crews to evaluate and repair areas damaged by suppression activities. This includes hauling out unneeded hose lines, supplies and trash, building water bars to prevent erosion, restoring damaged stream banks, and chipping and spreading tree limbs and brush that were cut during fire suppression.
In the southwest section of the fire near Clear Creek, crews reinforced the containment line recently established in steep, complex terrain.
On Monday, crews patrolled the fire perimeter, watching for changes in fire activity triggered by anticipated strong northeast winds, while continuing to reinforce established containment lines and mop-up smoldering logs and tree stumps. Resource advisors will work with crews and heavy equipment operators to repair areas damaged by suppression activities and remove unneeded equipment and trash.
The Wasco County Sheriff has updated evacuation notices. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WascoCountySheriff. An interactive evacuation map can be found at arcg.is/1janHC .
On Monday, a small fire near Mt. Hood Meadows Resort drew the attention of already busy fire officials, but as of press time Tuesday appears to have been contained to about two acres.
The blaze was reported about 0.25 miles east of the Shooting Star chair lift in the Heather Canyon drainage. An engine crew and hand crew responded immediately, supported by a helicopter dropping water.
To protect public safety and facilitate firefighters reaching the fire, the Timberline Trail is closed between Timberline Lodge and Cloud Cap.
The Elk Meadow Trailhead and Sahalie Falls Trailhead have also been closed.
Campfires are currently prohibited across the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The closures will remain in place for several days, fire officials said Tuesday.
Travelers are asked to drive extra carefully and be aware of fire vehicles and the possibility of smoke.
United States Forest Service reported that Sunday’s work on the Meadows blaze appears to have held overnight and there was minimal change to the fire, estimated at about 1.5 acres when it started Sunday morning and unchanged in size by Monday. “Mt. Hood Meadows didn’t see to much smoke yet this morning,” said Heather Ibsen of U.S.F.S.
East winds are forecasted and a Red Flag Warning is in effect across the region through Wednesday evening, which means there is an increased chance of fire activity.