Local crews part of first response to Rowena fire

The number of personnel fighting the Rowena fire has grown to approximately 700 since the Rowena fire was declared a conflagration the morning of Aug. 6, but one of the first groups of fire crews to arrive on scene were departments from Hood River County.

Wy’East District Fire Chief Greg Borton reported the Hood River Fire and EMS, West Side, Wy’East, and Parkdale departments all responded to the blaze as part of the Hood River County Immediate Needs Task Force, which was requested by Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue at around 10 p.m. on Aug. 5.

Borton, who headed the task force, said that combined, the four departments sent 15 firefighters to go along with three brush trucks, one tender, and one engine to the scene of the fire.

“It was really active,” Borton said of the blaze. “It was to 3 acres when we got sent out, and went to 20, then 100 in pretty fast order.”

Upon arrival, Hood River County crews were assigned to the structural division and were tasked with making sure the homes located in the west end of Rowena were protected from the encroaching flames or errant embers, according to Hood River Fire EMS Captain Manuel Irusta.

“We completed an evaluation of the homes and outbuildings and then went to work preparing them for the eventual arrival of the fire,” he explained. “That work could include closing all windows, removing flammable debris from around the buildings, limbing or removing trees and shrubs as needed, and closing off any access points for embers to enter such as vents and areas under porches.”

Irusta added that to his knowledge, “direct fire attack that night was very limited due to darkness and steep terrain with no safe access point.”

Borton and Irusta reported Hood River County fire crews were on scene until around 10 the morning of Aug. 6 when they began to be relieved by state fire crews after the blaze was declared a conflagration by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

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