THE DALLES, OR -- One person has died in the Substation Fire, southeast of The Dalles. Wasco County Deputies responded to a report of a burned out tractor and found a man's body nearby. It appears he died as a result of the fire.
The wildfire, which was first spotted Tuesday afternoon, blew up to 50,000 acres Wednesday in light flashy fuels and hot conditions. It's destroyed at least one home and several outbuildings, and evacuations remain in place. Lt. Damon Simmons, with the Fire Marshal's Office, says when the fire started it made an 18-mile run, "I think that that's a prime example of what this fire could do." He's concerned winds could continue to drive it, "Wildfire is very, very dependent on us getting the weather we need." It's already crossed the Deschutes River, "It’s burning up through the draws. It’s trying to push out from there, and when it does it will probably make some significant runs," says Simmons. The Governor has called in resources from around the state to protect homes and farm buildings. Firefighters from Bend, Redmond, Sunriver and other local agencies are already there.
Dezi Remington owns a farm that was damaged by the fire and tells KATU News she's never seen anything like it, "It was lines of fire 10-15' high and rushing through the wheat. It’s the fastest fire I’ve ever seen." The fire burned a thousand acres of wheat on their land, just as the wheat harvest is getting underway.
Investigators have a section of Highway 197 blocked off with crime tape, where the fire may have started; although the highway remains open. The Oregon Department of Transportation shutdown Highway 97, Wednesday night, from I-84 in The Dalles to the intersection with 197, due to the fire. It's expected to remain closed until later Thursday morning. Earlier this week, ODOT’s Peter Murphy told KBND News, the agency is reluctant to shutdown highways during fire operations, "We don’t like doing it, because it interferes with a lot of travel plans, obviously. But, we take safety into account first; that’s the most important thing. Then we alert folks to different ways to get through." He says flames along a highway is an obvious reason to close a road, but there are others, "You can have smoke just billowing across a highway that limits your visibility; that’s a good reason to shut down a highway." Highway 197 and I-84 remain open for access to the Gorge. Drivers are encouraged to check Tripcheck.com for the latest road conditions.
Photo: Incident Managment Team