Fire in the Gorge

Highway 141 fire burning near White Salmon

Firefighters continue to battle the Highway 141 Fire near White Salmon on all fronts, including air tankers dropping loads of fire retardant. As of Friday morning the following statistics were available: Cause is under investi...gation, size is 1,200 acres, percent contained is 10, total personel is 430, growth potential is high and terrain difficulty is extreme. For official updates see the Incident Information System website at http://www.inciweb.org/.

Photo by Adam Lapierre.
Firefighters continue to battle the Highway 141 Fire near White Salmon on all fronts, including air tankers dropping loads of fire retardant. As of Friday morning the following statistics were available: Cause is under investi...gation, size is 1,200 acres, percent contained is 10, total personel is 430, growth potential is high and terrain difficulty is extreme. For official updates see the Incident Information System website at http://www.inciweb.org/.

— What started as four small fires along Highway 141 in Washington at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, has now burned over 1,200 acres of open land between White Salmon and Husum. As of press time on Friday morning, officials were reporting a 40 percent containment of the fire.

Air quality alert

For those with breathing difficulties such as asthma, the Highway 141 fire has created unhealthy air quality conditions in Hood River as of press time.

According to the Ellen Larsen, director at the Hood River County Health Department, sensitive individuals should stay inside, keep windows shut and not take part in any strenuous exercise.

photo

An air tanker drops retardant on a section of the fire near Snowden Road just a few miles away from Columbia High School.

“As of 10:30 a.m. Friday, we are lowering the Level 3 evacuation order homes to a Level 2,” said Chuck Turley, information officer for the fire. “Residents may return to their homes but They will still remain at a Level 2, meaning they should be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.”

Over 35 homes in the line of the fire had been evacuated under the Level 3 alert, with 400 additional homes at Level 2 for possible evacuation. As of press time, no homes had burned and no one was reported injured.

“We will continue to reevaluate the evacuation orders as the day progresses,” said Stan Hinatsu, fire information officer from the U.S. Forest Service. “We will work with the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office as they ultimately have the authority to make the call on evacuations.”

With a complex interplay of wind, terrain, humidity and temperatures impacting fire-fighting efforts, Hinatsu laid out a hoped for target.

“We anticipate 100 percent containment by Sept. 13,” said Hinatsu, “but it could be sooner, or later depending on how much work we get done around houses, our progress on fire lines and what the weather will be doing.

The total burned acreage estimate was revised down from 1,500 acres after aerial imagery provided more accurate fire details.

“We flew the fire and aerial mapped it. We thought the two fires had merged, but as of this morning, there was still a separation.”

Gov Christine Gregoire enacted a state mobilization allowing for additional fire fighting resources to be called to the area.

According to Hinatsu, there are now over 430 firefighters involved in the containment efforts, including a fleet of helicopters, dozers and engines. According to Hinatsu, airplanes will be made available when and if they are needed out of Washington airbases.

“Initially there were just local resources on the fire and then it got it complex enough called in a state management team. They are now in charge,” said Hinatsu.

Yesterday at 11 a.m., management of the fire transitioned to Washington Incident Management Team 5 under Commander Dave Leitch.

According to Turley, light easterly winds on Wednesday and Thursday helped limit the fire’s spread, with the Gorge’s infamous gusts remaining at bay.

The winds were predicted to remain relatively calm through the Saturday, with 4-8mph anticipated in valleys and 5-10 mph on ridge tops.

Sunday poses greater risk with a change to westerly winds predicted and gusts up to 30 mph.

“Everything we are doing now is in preparation for Sunday’s change in winds,” said Turley. “Up till now, the easterly winds actually helped keep the fire turning back on itself and generally away from homes.”

On the downside, with temperatures hovering in the 90s with continued low humidity, conditions still remain serious for families with homes bordering the fire lines.

According to Hinatsu, the Level 3 advised evacuation zone (highest danger) had been located on side roads which run along Snowden Road between Wnuk Road and Echo Glen Road extending down to SR141, and along Indian Creek Road in the Indian Creek drainage.

Level 2 (alert for possible evacuation) includes the areas along Snowden Road from White Salmon north to Wnuk Road and north of Echo Glen to Blackberry Road.

An evacuation center opened in the White Salmon Fire Hall with Red Cross on the scene to assist fire victims.

Two of the initial wildfire sources were contained rapidly, but one above White Salmon and the second near Husum gained momentum over the last two days. The cause of the fire remains under investigation at the multiple ignition points.

An email address has been established for fire information at Highway141Info@gmail.com. Regular fire information updates may be found at: inciweb.org/incident/3238/

According to Turley, the Columbia High School football game scheduled for Saturday night has been moved to the Toleda high school field to prevent smoke-related health concerns.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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