THE DALLES, OR -- Firefighters made substantial progress on the Substation Fire, near The Dalles, over the weekend. The fire has burned more than 79,000 acres and, as of Monday morning, is 92% contained. Evacuation warnings have been lowered to level one and many fire teams have been released. A few crews remain, watching for hot spots.
The fire, which killed one person, started July 17 on private land and spread quickly. Its cause remains under investigation.
This year's wheat harvest was just starting when the Substation Fire started. Jim Johnson, with the Oregon Agriculture Department, says the blaze devoured tens of thousands of acres of wheat fields near The Dalles, "You basically are starting in Wasco County and working east to Baker County. That’s a big wheat area."
He believes the fire will affect Oregon's economy, "Grains - wheat, in particular - is really one of the number one commodities in the Columbia Basin." Wheat is a major export crop, "It's a situation that, in international trade, can be huge," and Johnson says the loss will affect the bottom line for Oregon farmers, farm workers and the Port of Portland grain terminals, which will have less wheat to ship. 80% of Oregon's wheat crop is shipped out of Portland to Asian markets.