UPDATE AT 9:15 PM: Fire officials have expanded mandatory evacuations to some 275 homes and structures in the Rowena wildfire burning west of The Dalles.
An additional neighborhood – the Division Street subdivision – is now in a Level 1, non-mandatory evacuation.
Fire official says the fire is moving east.
The Red Cross has moved its emergency shelter from Mosier to Dry Hollow Elementary in The Dalles.
According to Red Cross volunteer Julia Bishop, fire crews are driving through neighborhoods west of The Dalles alerting residents that they need to evacuate.
Helicopters and fire crews worked to stop a growing wildfire in the Columbia River Gorge that’s burned about 200 acres and threatened 270 structures by late Wednesday.
The fire is burning between Hood River and The Dalles.
The fire began Tuesday night after 9 p.m. Fire officials say the cause is unknown.
Tommy Schroeder, a lieutenant with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office Incident Management Team, says 70 homes are under a mandatory evacuation.
“Winds are definitely a challenge right now,” he says. “Couple the winds with the dry vegetation and steep terrain and we have a trifecta of really rough working conditions.”
So far there have been no reports of any burned structures.
Earlier Wednesday, Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a Conflagration Act, allowing counties from around the state to assist in fighting the fire.
At least three helicopters dumped water on the blaze, aiding the efforts of some 60 firefighters on the ground.
“We’re trying to get a stop on it so that it doesn’t advance any further,” Schroeder says.
“Right now the Oregon Department of Forestry I hear is sending a team out, which means well get a lot more personnel on the ground to help with the actual wildland portion of it, which in turn will protect the structures,” he said.
The Dalles is about 7 miles from the fire, as the crow flies.
“We have concerns that it’s heading that direction, but we’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to get a stop on it before it gets to be a real concern,” Schroeder says.
The Red Cross set up a shelter in near-by Mosier.
Julia Bishop, a volunteer with the agency, says so far no one’s shown up.
“Not everybody wants to sleep in a communal situation and if you have a relative or a friend and you can go sleep on their couch you’d probably go there first,” Bishop says. “But not everybody has that choice, so we’re here if they don’t,” he said.
Bishop says the shelter will stay open as long as there’s a need.
Management of the Rowena Fire is now being conducted by a Unified Command between Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s Office. The Incident Command post has been set up at Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, 1400 West 8th Street, The Dalles, OR.
Highway 30 is now closed between The Dalles Country Club and Rowena; however, the closure could expand as the fire progresses. Citizens are asked to keep away from the area in order to avoid interfering with firefighting operations.
Currently, there are approximately 275 structures threatened by the fire’s spread. A Level III (Go) evacuation notice has been issued for seventy five residences located between the 5500 block of Highway 30 west to the 6200 block of Highway 30. Approximately 200 residences located between the 4800 block of Highway 30 (Exit 82) west to the 5500 block of Highway 30, including Murray’s Addition, Foley Lakes, Simonelli Road, Tooley Terrace and Adeline Way have been placed on a Level I (Get Ready) evacuation notice. Evacuation notices are being conducted by Wasco County Sheriff’s Office staff and via the Citizen Alert emergency notification program. Please register for Citizen Alert at www.co.wasco.or.us.
The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for residents displaced by the fire, located at the Mosier Grange, 900 4th Street, Mosier. For information related to the shelter, please contact the American Red Cross at 888-680-1455 or follow @redcrosscascade on Twitter. Home at Last, 541-296-5189, is offering sheltering services for dogs and cats if owners have no other options for their pets. Livestock sheltering is being coordinated by Nan Wimmers, 541-993-5510.
Please refer to the official Rowena Fire Facebook page at “Rowena Fire Oregon – 2014” and Twitter feed @rowenafire2014 for current fire information. Questions can be directed to email@example.com.
For current road closures and evacuation notices, call the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office Rowena Fire hotline at 541-506-2792.