Fire officials are holding a community meeting Tuesday evening in The Dalles to update residents on the fires burning outside town. So far those fires have destroyed two homes and several other structures.
Firefighters working the Government Flat Complex reported seeing flames whip across the steep and rolling hills Monday at a rate of about 300 feet per minute.
David Morman is an information officer with the Oregon Department of Forestry. He says high winds have made it extremely difficult to make any progress on the fire.
“I was out there yesterday afternoon having a hard time holding my hard hat on my head because it was so windy. So that’s a very difficult situation to try to slow down a fire burning in grass or brush. It really wants to move,” said Morman.
The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office has issued evacuation orders for about 80 homes. Nationwide, firefighting resources are stretched thin. This morning, top fire managers increased the national fire Preparedness Level to its highest point, level five.
Carol Connolly is a fire information officer with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. She says the change not only represents the large number of fires burning - but also a shortage of resources across the country.
“A hundred requests came in for fire crews yesterday and they couldn’t fill one of them,” said Connolly.
She says fire managers are being asked to tighten their belts and make do with what they have. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this is the fifth time level five has been reached in the last ten years.
So far this year the U.S. has seen 32,000 wildfires, which have burned a total of 3.4 million acres.