Crews make gains on Columbia Gorge fire ahead of heat wave
MOSIER, Ore. (AP) — A wildfire burning in the scenic Columbia River Gorge grew to more than 970 acres (392 hectares) as of Friday morning. Crews had it 10% contained and said they’d established a 75% line of defense.
“As of right now, it’s going well,” Rich Tyler, a spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office, told The Oregonian/OregonLive Friday morning. “But all it takes is for the winds to change.”
The blaze was threatening hundreds of homes.
The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in the community of Mosier, Oregon, which is between Hood River and The Dalles along Interstate 84.
On Thursday afternoon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said about 900 people were being evacuated from more than 400 homes. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations along several roads in Mosier. A hotel in The Dalles is available as a shelter.
Tyler said four structures had burned, two of which were homes. Dubbed the Mosier Creek fire, it’s believed to be human-caused, according to authorities.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act, making more state resources available to fire crews. The state fire marshal’s office assumed command Thursday.
Christie Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said the fire started as crews were mopping up another blaze in the same area. She said winds caused the Mosier Creek fire to spread.
Ground, helicopter and air tanker crews are working the blaze, the agency said. It burned as extreme heat was forecast for the region this weekend. The expected high temperature in Mosier Friday was 95 degrees, Tyler said, and temperatures could reach 100 by Sunday.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the Willamette Valley and the Columbia River Gorge through the weekend.
Firefighters are also taking extra precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic, avoiding interactions with residents in The Dalles and keeping individual firefighting units separated from each other.