Grass fire threatens residences, hospital in The Dalles

A large grass fire came nervously close to several residences and within 1,000 feet of Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles on Saturday.

According to Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, the blaze originated in the engine compartment of a motor home located in the 2300 block of East 19th St. near Covenant Christian Church at 3:45 p.m. No injuries were reported.

About 80 firefighters from gorge agencies battled the fire before containing it at 8 p.m. Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue was assisted by units from Oregon Department of Forestry, Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Pine Grove, Odell, Westside, Hood River, Lyle, High Prairie and Dallesport.

Officials said the fire burned more than 200 acres. Damage estimates for the loss of the motor home, storage shed and a 1989 Dodge Ram pickup also consumed in the fire were almost $25,000.

Fire Marshal Stu Nagel said the flames from the motor home spilled over into the surrounding dry grass, then completely engulfed an old hay storage shed, which housed the truck. From there, the flames moved up the foothills west of the fireÆs starting point, along the ridge underneath powerlines at the top of the hill, then back down toward a cherry orchard.

At one point, flames came to within 1,000 feet of Mid-Columbia Medical Center, though the hospital was never in serious danger. Nagel said had the day been windy, the fire could have easily been worse. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Nagel said with the dry conditions and extreme heat, Saturday’s incident could be easily be repeated throughout the summer. “This is a wake-up call,” Nagel said. “We’ve had such a wet spring that there’s now a tremendous fuel load (for a fire.) “With this hot weather, it won’t take much to [start another fire]. The next one could be explosive.

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