GF Complex fires lay low

Unseasonal weather gives crews the upper hand on 11,221-acre Blackburn Fire

A weekend of cool, wet weather and calmer-than-expected winds have gone a long way toward helping fire crews make progress on extinguishing the 11,221-acre Blackburn Fire burning several miles southwest of The Dalles.

The Blackburn Fire is part of an 11,516-acre blaze known as the Government Flats Complex, which started via lightning strike Aug. 16 and consumed four homes and nine outbuildings. The other two fires in the complex have been contained for over a week.

After nearly a week of growth at a rate of almost 1,700 acres a day, the Blackburn Fire slowed dramatically over the weekend thanks to a desperately needed helping hand from Mother Nature. Fire growth has been negligible as of late as firefighters concentrate on tightening up fire lines on the west and northwest perimeters while performing mop-up work on the east, south, and north sides of the fire. As of Tuesday morning, containment was listed at 55 percent.

All evacuations were lifted Monday night, with the exception of closures in the Mt. Hood National Forest. A new closure was put in place Tuesday morning around the fire perimeter as well as all U.S. Forest Service roads leading into the fire area. The closure area includes all Forest Service lands east of F.S. Road 1700 and north of F.S. Road 1720 as well as all lands with The Dalles Watershed.

Fire crews have begun to demobilize from the scene as fire activity decreases and containment improves. At its peak, nearly 1,100 personnel had been assigned to the fire, but as of Tuesday morning, that number had decreased to 789. Thankfully, no one has been injured by the wildfires thus far, with the exception of one firefighter who fell from a fire truck and injured his back.

The fire was declared a state conflagration by Governor John Kitzhaber the evening of Aug. 17 and became eligible for the recoupment of firefighting costs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA eligibility ended Monday night. As of Tuesday morning, total fire costs had risen to just over $11 million.

The wet weather has helped increase the relative humidity levels of fire fuels in the area, for now. The weather is expected to return to more seasonal conditions this week, which will cause fuels to dry out once again. Fire crews will continue mop-up work this week, particularly in the interior of the fire area, as well as looking for spot fires along and outside the fire’s perimeter. No expected full-containment date has been listed, but the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Incident Management Team 3 will remain at the scene until the fire is fully controlled.

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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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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