Sheldon Ridge fire contained

More than 12,000 acres burn near The Dalles, evacuated residents return home

Story courtesy of The Dalles Chronicle

The 12,200-acre Sheldon Ridge Fire, in Wasco County between The Dalles and Mosier, is now 70 percent contained, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

On Monday night, officials lifted evacuation orders on the fire, allowing residents of Wells Road, Brown’s Creek and Upper Chenowith to return home for the first time since Thursday night. More than 700 firefighters remain on the fire.

Operations resumed at The Dalles’ water treatment plant last night, after being shut down Friday. The system is in full operation and service has been restored to Mill Creek Road residents.

But 45 mile-per-hour winds forecast Tuesday still challenged the operation, and firefighters prepared to defend the 80 percent containment level they’d achieved by Monday night. “It’s great windsurfing, but tough on firefighters,” said Stan Hinatsu of the U.S. Forest Service, a spokesman on the Sheldon Ridge Fire. “We’re cautiously optimistic of reaching our containment goal of 6 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) night,” Hinatsu said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Most of the fire is now “lined,” either by hand trail, bulldozer or existing barriers such as roads. But strong winds yesterday pushed the fire beyond those boundaries in several isolated locations, Hinatsu said. Fortunately, the continued presence of a large firefighting force — 20 crews of 20 individuals each, 37 engines, eight bulldozers and eight aircraft as of this morning — quickly beat down those encroachments.

“No fire is fully contained until we’re confident it won’t jump the lines,” Hinatsu said, warning the threat still continued today. “If we get through today with those kinds of winds without any slopover, we’ve done pretty well.” The fire’s estimated acreage increased yesterday by 600 acres, but Hinatsu said this is primarily because of refined field measurements within the original boundaries. Total acreage as of this morning stood at 12,761. No homes have been lost.

Evacuation was rescinded at 8 p.m. Monday.

“We wanted to get the homeowners in there as soon as we could. It’s been a huge inconvenience for them, and we appreciate their willingness to move out so our firefighters could do their work,” Hinatsu added. “The community support has been really encouraging for our firefighters. We really appreciate all the donations and the cards and thank-yous.”

Crews ranged from near and far in fighting Sheldon Ridge fire, including fire departments in Hood River County, along with counterparts from Klickitat, Umatilla, Morrow, Yamhill, Marion, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Polk County departments, in addition to the Department of Forestry, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, and U.S. Forest Service.

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