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Three fires in four days raise concerns

Firefighter Ryan Willis knocks out hotspots in bales of hay lost in Friday afternoon’s barn fire on Whiskey Flat Road near Odell, one of three fires in four days apparently connected to permitted burns. “Hay is notorious,” for hidden combustibility, Willis said. Firefighters from Wy’east District and neighboring agencies prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby home. Dry conditions led fire officials to issue cautions about safe practices in carrying out burn permits. See page A11 for details. Local fire officials said they are considering moving up the restricted fire season to earlier than May 1 because of continued dry conditions throughout the Gorge.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Firefighter Ryan Willis knocks out hotspots in bales of hay lost in Friday afternoon’s barn fire on Whiskey Flat Road near Odell, one of three fires in four days apparently connected to permitted burns. “Hay is notorious,” for hidden combustibility, Willis said. Firefighters from Wy’east District and neighboring agencies prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby home. Dry conditions led fire officials to issue cautions about safe practices in carrying out burn permits. See page A11 for details. Local fire officials said they are considering moving up the restricted fire season to earlier than May 1 because of continued dry conditions throughout the Gorge.



One fire jumped a creek, another came close to a home and a third nearly took out a greenhouse.

Firefighters responded to three brush fires in Parkdale and Odell between Friday and Monday, as ground fuels appear to be drying out after continued dry and unseasonably warm weather.

“The grass is a lot drier than I thought,” landowner Jim Byrne said Monday as he cleaned up after the fire that burned a 150-by-100- foot area of grass and bush next to his greenhouse operation Monday at about 10 a.m. on Baseline Road near Highway 35. A 50-foot slab of melted plastic was all that remained of the 500 plastic planting pots he lost in the fire.

Parkdale volunteers doused the flames before they could damage the greenhouses, other than minor damage to one corner. Byrne was monitoring his permitted fire but wind spurred the flames and caused it to spread.

On Sunday, a Billings Road burn pile jumped Trout Creek and spread to a neighboring piece of property, burning nearly a half-acre of grass before Parkdale firefighters doused it, according to Chief Mike McCafferty. No structures were threatened.

On Friday, Wy’east Fire District put out an afternoon shed fire at the end of a long driveway on Willow Flat Road. The shed was totaled but there was no damage to the manufactured home about 25 yards away.

The barn had been filled with household goods and farm equipment, and plenty of hay, which firefighters laboriously turned over and over to make sure all hot spots were doused. The cause of the fire is unknown, according to district officials. Westside and Parkdale provided backup, along with Hood River, and the Sheriff’s Office responded.



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