Crews ‘staying on top’ of Gorge fire

THE DALLES, Ore. (KOIN) — The wind is not as gusty as its been the past several days. Still, more than 700 personnel from Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Hood River, Columbia and Marion counties are assisting Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue in the firefight in the Government Flat Complex.

One of three lightning-sparked fires burning about six miles southwest of The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge continued its growth Monday and into Tuesday.

Smoke clouds the view of Mount Adams behind a charred field near The Dalles, Ore., on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Dozens of homeowners were on alert and some were told to evacuate as strong winds made it tough for firefighters to contain several lightning-caused fires in the Columbia River Gorge. (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)
Smoke clouds the view of Mount Adams behind a charred field near The Dalles, Ore., on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

The Government Flat Complex broke out Saturday and has so far destroyed two homes and five outbuildings. Level 3 evacuation notices — telling residents to leave immediately —  were issued for about 50 homes in the 9500 block of Upper Mill Creek Road, east to the 6500 block of Mill Creek Road, Reservoir Road and Obrist Road.

Firefighters defend the water treatment plant near The Dalles, Aug. 20, 2013 (KOIN 6 News/Bill Cortez)
Firefighters defend the water treatment plant near The Dalles, Aug. 20, 2013 (KOIN 6 News/Bill Cortez)

Many firefighters are trying to keep the fire away from the city’s water supply facility. From the parking lot of the water supply building, fire crews organized efforts to keep the blaze from burning across nearby Mill Creek.

Air tankers from Redmond laid down a path of retardant on ridges of the canyon overlooking the water supply plant to contain flames and keep fire from blowing away out of control.

The road leading to the city’s water supply building is being used as a fire break — but it’s lined with heavy dry brush.

The Government Flat Complex of fires burning near The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge. The lightning-sparked fires broke out Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. (Oregon Department of Forestry)
Undated photo. (Chris Friend/ODF)

Burning trees near the fire line came down to beef up the fire line and keep the flames from crossing the creek. Firefighters want to hold the line as wind gusts ease up a little and before a chance for more thunderstoms move into the region again later this week.

“We did lose a little ground yesterday [Monday],” said Fire Information Officer Tommy Schroeder. “The wind picked up and it did jump some lines but we have some contingency lines out there and we’re staying on top of that.”

The main water supply building for the city of The Dalles is not now in immediate danger, but it is shrouded in smoke and crews have been setting back fires in the area to starve the real fire of fuel before it gets here.

Larry McCollum, who is the water plant manager and lives in a home on the property, told KOIN 6 he is a bit anxious.

“I have moments of nervousness as anyone would, but like I said we’ve got folks here supporting us and their priority is to protect this facility.”

So far, it’s a standoff.

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