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Sunday, August 18, 2013

ODF fire team takes over Government Flat Complex

August 18, 2013 @ 08:30 a.m. Contact: Tom Fields, 503-983-8897,

Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team 3 (IC Chris Cline) and Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Green Team (IC John Ingrao) have assumed fire suppression responsibility for the three wildfires comprising the Government Flat Complex approximately seven miles southwest of The Dalles. All three fires, Blackburn, Government Flat, and Wells are lightning-caused fires detected on August 16.

The Blackburn Fire has increased in size to 700 acres. It is burning within the City of The Dalles Watershed in steep terrain with limited access for firefighters. The fire is on a mixed ownership of private and public land (SDS Lumber, LLC; Bureau of Land Management; and City of The Dalles.)

Despite work by ground crew since detection and three air tankers dropping retardant continuously on Saturday, strong afternoon winds resulted in spot fires and an increase in fire spread into both the South Fork of Mill Creek and Upper Mill Creek drainages.

Protection of the downstream City of The Dalles water treatment facility and structures in the vicinity of the Blackburn Fire are high priorities for today. Establishing defensible control lines to halt the fire’s continued spread will be challenging in the rugged terrain. Rattlesnakes and poison oak are additional safety hazards for fire crews.

The Government Flat Fire is 168 acres, a reduction from Sunday’s less accurate estimate of 200 acres. This fire has been lined and officials are expecting the risk further fire spread to be low. The public may see increased smoke this morning from a planned burnout operation on the eastern flank of this fire.

The Wells Fire remains contained at 66 acres and will continue to be patrolled.

All fires are burning in grass, brush and oak, with some Douglas-fir, and ponderosa pine on north-facing slopes.

Governor Kitzhaber issued a Conflagration Act proclamation Saturday evening. State Fire Marshal’s Office Green Team will be coordinating with Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue and resources from 24 other assisting Oregon fire departments on structural fire protection associated with these three wildfires. Today they will inventory and assess the threat to structures near the fires.

This morning 11 20-person crews, 10 engines, 6 dozers, 3 water tenders and 3 helicopters are assigned to the fire. Three air tankers are available, as needed.

The Wasco County Sheriff has not issued any evacuation notices at this time. The City of The Dalles water supply is not affected at this time.

An incident command post has been established at Wahtonka High School in The Dalles.

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The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

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Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.