Local firefighters sent to John Day conflagration

Approximately 20 firefighters from departments around Hood River County have been called up by the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshall to help fight the over 10,000-acre Grouse Mountain Complex near John Day.

Hood River Fire and EMS Captain Dave Smith said Hood River, Parkdale, Westside, and Cascade Locks have all sent engines and Wy’East sent a tender and brush rig to battle the wildfire Friday morning. The group comprises the Hood River County Interface Task Force, which is led by Wy’East Fire Chief Greg Borton.

Smith said the team was called upon Thursday evening and met at 7:30 a.m. Friday to prepare before leaving Hood River at 9. The fire crews were expected to be in the John Day area by early afternoon Friday after staging at Celilo. Smith said the firefighters will camp in the John Day area with the 227 other firefighters who were at the blaze Friday morning and may stay on scene upwards of five days.

According to the Oregon Department of Forestry blog, Wasco County Task Force has also been sent to the blaze, which is burning one mile north of John Day and threatens 210 structures as of Friday morning. Smith explained that the “Interface” in “Interface Task Force” means the team has the ability to fight both wildland and structure fires.

Gov. Kitzhaber declared the fire a conflagration Thursday evening, which according to the Dept. of Forestry blog, “frees up state funding to send resources from structural fire departments outside the area to the fire to assist in protecting homes and other structures.” Smith believed this was the first time this year the Hood River County Interface Task Force has been sent out of the area for a fire.

According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, the Grouse Mountain Complex, totaled 10,900 acres and was 0 percent contained as of Friday morning, with an expected containment date of Aug. 18. The cause of the fire was determined to be from a lightning strike that occurred Wednesday.

Locally, dry conditions and forecasted thunderstorms have prompted a red flag fire warning from the National Weather Service for the Mt. Hood National Forest and neighboring Bureau of Land Management lands, which will be in place until 11 p.m. Saturday.

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