Firefighters battle South Valley Fire

Firefighters overnight “made good containment progress” on the South Valley Fire near Dufur, despite gusty and battling winds that remained strong through most of the night, according to fire officials’ statements issued Friday.

Northwesterly winds were dominant until early Friday when unexpected easterly winds pushed the fire out of the heavily fuel-loaded Larch and Pine Creek drainages on the west side of the fire. The fire jumped containment lines and established in lighter fuels, causing some fast runs. Fire crews, with support of farmers, were able to contain the fire utilizing the Heberlein and Winslow road systems along with dozers. All other sections of the fire are reported to look favorable going into today.

So far this summer, there have been 414 human-caused wildfires in Oregon and 873 human-caused wildfires in Washington. Firefighters responded Wednesday to a 300-foot grass fire along Frontage Road just west of Cascade Locks, and had it out in a half-hour.

In the South Valley Fire, Wasco County Sheriff has implemented Level 3 evacuation orders. For details on evacuation orders, visit Wasco County Sheriff’s Facebook page. The Bureau of Land Management will continue to keep Segment 3 of the Deschutes River corridor from Sandy Beach to Mack’s Canyon open unless conditions change for the worse.

Currently, there are no road closures in effect.

Here are further updates on the South Valley Fire:

There are 172 homes threatened by the fire with 516 people under a Level 3 evacuation. The Red Cross is available to provide shelter support to those displaced. Contact them at 1-888-680-1455.

The State Fire Marshal has stated that at least one structure has been lost. State Fire Marshal personnel are in the field determining the extent of the fire’s impact to structures.

The weather Friday is forecast to be slightly lower in temperature and higher humidity than yesterday, but forecasted winds can easily overcome that slight reprieve. Winds are the most influential weather factor determining fire behavior, especially in the lighter fuels that are dominant on this fire. The trend over the next few days is to return to hot and dry. A community meeting was scheduled at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center at 6 p.m. Friday, located at 402 E. Scenic Dr. in The Dalles. Fire managers and other local emergency services personnel will be available for a fire update and to answer any related questions.

On Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown approved a conflagration declaration for the South Valley Fire. At the time of the declaration 100 homes were threatened, and the fire was moving quickly toward highway 197.

Brown said. “Early reports are that this may be human caused. Oregonians need to use the utmost caution and remain safe, vigilant, and ensure they are honoring all fire restrictions. People traveling through the area should use extreme caution because of the smoke in the air.”

Currently, there are over 8,000 firefighters and support personnel battling wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. As of this morning, there are 16 large wildfires in Oregon and 6 large wildfires in Washington impacting over 185,000 acres.

Early next week, 85 firefighters and support personnel from Australia and New Zealand arrive in the Pacific Northwest to support suppression efforts. Positions include division supervisors, safety officers, task force leaders, strike team leaders, heavy equipment bosses, helicopter managers, helicopter crew members, structure protection specialists and liaison officers. These wildland fire management positions have been identified as “unable to fill” through the U.S. dispatch/coordination system on a daily basis in recent weeks.

In addition to the Australia and New Zealand support, two Canadian Convair 580 airtankers and a lead plane from Saskatchewan are currently assigned to support large fires in the Pacific Northwest. Canada and the United States have a long history of mutual support for fire operations, however at this time, Canada has a high level of fire activity to which most of their resources are currently committed.

Members of the Oregon and Washington National Guard and Air National Guard have joined the fire suppression and support effort in their respective states. More than 290 Oregon National Guard personnel are currently deployed to the Garner Complex and other incidents, and this number could climb to nearly 600 personnel this Friday. Washington National Guard has 125 personnel assigned to fires.

The National Preparedness Level remains at 5, the highest level, indicating a high level of wildfire activity and a high level of commitment of available wildfire suppression assets, such as firefighters, aircraft and engines. Weather and fuel conditions are predicted to continue to be conducive to wildfire ignitions and spread for the next few weeks.

Fire managers remind the public to “know before you go” what fire restrictions may be in place in the area you visiting. Many local units have campfire bans or restrictions in place. If campfires are allowed, make sure campfires are “dead out” and cold to the touch before leaving.

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