Governor Kate Brown has declared a statewide fire emergency as a deadly wildfire continues to move across 80 miles of the Columbia River Gorge and beyond. As of Thursday night the Substation fire near the Dalles has been declared the number one in the U.S. with over 50,000 acres burned and sustained winds making the blaze difficult to control. The Oregon National Guard has ben activated to assist in the ongoing firefighting efforts.
Homes in the area have been evacuated and authorities said the fire has claimed one man, a tractor operator who was trying to create a fire break to hold back the flames of a neighbor’s property in Wasco County.
The fire started at an electrical converter station near the Dalles and, while officials have not confirmed the cause of the fire, arson is being looked at as a possibility.
Fourth of July festivities were put on hold late Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out on the base of Pilot Butte in Bend. On Thursday Bend Police arrested two men accused of the starting the fire that burned ten acres and threatened nearby homes.
The two suspects are currently facing charges of criminal mischief in the first degree, reckless burning and possible arson charges related to the blaze.
Around 4:50 p.m. on Wednesday a small fire, allegedly sparked by fire works, quickly escalated into a full on inferno and fire crews were quickly called in to handle the blaze that was propelled through the grass by strong winds.
The fire prompted evacuations of two nearby apartment complexes and shut down Highway 20 in both directions. The fire also lead to a power outage that left roughly 27,000 Bend residents without power for hours.
On Wednesday night Highway 20 was reopened, power was back on and Bend’s fireworks show went on as planned. However, the Pilot Butte park access road and trail head will be closed for two days and firefighter continue to put out hot spots in order to avoid another fire from flaring up.
A fire near Culver was threatening homes on Friday, and Central Oregon Daily’s Lisa Carton spent the day with the firefighters at the Graham Fire, south of the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook. The fire ignited Thursday and has since burned roughly 2,000 acres. After evacuations were ordered state resources were called in to help battle the blaze after Governor Kate Brown declared the fire a conflagration.
Residents near Maupin have also been told to prepare for a possible evacuation as the Box Car Fire grew to 18,000 acres – making it the largest of the young fire season so far. Campers have been warned to stay out of the area and Highway 197 has been closed due to smoke.
A prescribed burn was ignited by the U.S. Forest Service Sunday near Rimrock Trail Head, leaving a thick soup of smoke over Bend on Monday morning.
Central Oregon Daily’s Allison Roecker spoke to residents and a Forest Service official on the timing of the burn, and what to expect for the rest of the week.
If the weather permits, the Deschutes National Forest Service plans to ignite two more burns this week, one just across the highway from the Rimrock Trailhead that’s burning right now and the next one will be along the north side of Skyliners Road.
From Central Oregon to California, firefighters have been putting their lives on the line to battle wildfires all summer and into the fall. Some Central Oregonians wanted to come up with a way to thank all of those firefighters, and, as Anyssa Bohanan reports, those efforts are coming together this Sunday.
If you’d like to attend, the event goes from 1:30pm to 3:00pm on Sunday at the Village Green Park in Sisters.
The multiple fires currently burning in and around the state, combined with a shift in the winds, has created a smoky atmosphere across Central Oregon.
Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan looks at how it’s affecting children throughout the region.
As the Milli Fire, located west of Sisters, Oregon, continues to burn, firefighters continue to work tirelessly to strengthen the fire lines and protect structures.
Central Oregon Daily’s Allison Roecker was on the fire line Wednesday and has their story.