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SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Sheriff's office uses text/email notification system for first time on fire

Firefighters work to protect The Dalles water treatment plant and nearby homes

Flames show starkly against the dark in one of the Government Flat complex fires, as viewed from Sevenmile Hill.

Contributed photo/Scott Hege

Flames show starkly against the dark in one of the Government Flat complex fires, as viewed from Sevenmile Hill. Contributed photo/Scott Hege

— UPDATE Sunday, 2:45 p.m.: The Wasco County Sheriff's Office has notified residents on Mill Creek of possible fire risks using the recently acquired Everbridge text and email notification system.

The notifications were informational, only. No evacuation notices have been issued.

"This is the first time, actually, that we've accessed the system and done a notification like this," said Sheriff Rick Eiesland.

Local residents can sign up for the system on the Wasco County website home page under the "Citizen Alert" link at http://www.co.wasco.or.us/


The governor has imposed the Conflagration Act in connection to what is now being called the Government Flat Fire Complex, burning about seven miles southwest of The Dalles largely in the city's watershed.

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 . All three fires, Blackburn, Government Flat and Wells, are lightning-caused fires that started Aug. 16.

The Blackburn Fire has increased in size to 700 acres.

“The Blackburn Fire we have not been able to hold,” said David Morman, Forestry spokesman. “It's spotted past the lines in some areas and moved its way down into the canyon of the south fork and upper Mill Creek drainages. “Today we are trying to determine safe places to establish fire lines and protect the water treatment plant for the City of The Dalles and the residences.”

Morman did not believe any evacuation notices had been issued yet, but Wasco County Sheriff's deputies have been knocking on doors to provide information.

“Just the fact that the fire is scattered so widely, access is difficult for firefighters due to the rugged terrain,” Morman said. “We want to make sure people are aware of the potential for the fire to spread.”

The fire is burning within the City of The Dalles Watershed in steep terrain with limited access for firefighters. It is on mixed ownership of private and public land, SDS Lumber, Bureau of Land Management and City of The Dalles.

Establishing defensible control lines to halt the fire's continued spread will be challenging in the rugged terrain. It is a circumstance that state officials are familiar with around The Dalles from experience with fires like the Sheldon Ridge Fire that occurred a decade ago, and other past fires.

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

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

This morning, 11 20-person crews, 10 engines, six dozers, three water tenders and three 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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