7 buildings lost in The Dalles wildfires

8-19-13-Gov flat fire 2-Forest Grove Fire & Rescue
Smoke from the "Government Flat Complex" fire clouds the air as fire crews beat back the flames southwest of the Oregon city of The Dalles Aug. 19, 2013. (Forest Grove Fire & Rescue)

THE DALLES, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 700 firefighters battled the Government Flats Complex fire in the Columbia River Gorge Monday.

The fire, comprised of three lightning-sparked burns, is now about six miles southwest of The Dalles, Ore. On Monday night, fire officials said two homes and five outbuildings have burned since the fire was discovered this past Friday.

The biggest of the three fires, dubbed the Blackburn Fire, “continued to be hit by Gorge-influenced winds today,” according to a joint Oregon State Fire Marshal and Oregon Department of Forestry news release. “The fire spread was in all directions, due to the strong erratic winds.”

That fire is now estimated at 4,700 acres. Monday afternoon the fire also jumped another road, which forced the evacuation level up.

The Level III Evacuation — for residents on Mill Creek Road between 9595 Mill Creek Road and Reservoir Road, and including all of Reservoir Road — went into effect as of 4:30 p.m. Monday. Approximately 50 structures were affected by this evacuation order, according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal. This evacuation will not affect Water Treatment Facility operations, the fire marshal’s office reported.

8-19-13-Gov flat fire 1-Forest Grove Fire & Rescue

Air crews with fire retardant fly toward the “Government Flat Complex” fire southwest of the Oregon city of The Dalles Aug. 19, 2013. (Forest Grove Fire & Rescue)

Less than four hours later, the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office expanded that evacuation order from 9595 Upper Mill Creek Road east to 6522 Mill Creek Road. “Go now!” the sheriff’s office warned.

Firefighters are dealing with what David Morman of the Oregon Department of Forestry said was “two steps forward, one step back kind of thing.”

Thick smoke made it difficult to see, with gusting winds whipping around the dried, sandy ground.

The Associated Press reported Gov. John Kitzhaber declared the wildfires a conflagration so the state fire marshal could mobilize resources to assist locals in battling the blaze. Officials prioritized the local water treatment plant for immediate protection, since it supplies water for much of The Dalles.

But there is some somewhat good news in all of this: As of 10:30 p.m., “the Government Flat and Wells Road fires are considered contained and in patrol status,” according to a joint Oregon State Fire Marshal and Oregon Department of Forestry news release.

An American Red Cross shelter opened at Dry Hollow Elementary School, 1314 E. 19th St., in The Dalles. Displaced locals can register for its “Safe and Well” program at the center, by phone (1.888.680.1455) or online.

The public has been invited to a Community Meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, 1400 W. 8th St. Information on the status of the Government Flat Complex Fires will be provided by incident management personnel.

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