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Firefighters respond to Chenowith fire

A pair of firefighters work hose in an orchard on Chenowith Road during a fire Friday afternoon, Aug 9.

A pair of firefighters work hose in an orchard on Chenowith Road during a fire Friday afternoon, Aug 9. Photo by Victoria Osborne.

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A firefighter moves out to work on a short-lived fire that started at the junction of Chenowith and Browns Creek roads Friday afternoon, Aug. 8. Some homes west of Sandlin Road, upslope from the fire, were evacuated for a short time.

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Diana Bailey talks with Wasco County Chief Deputy Lane Magill about a mandatory evacuation briefly in place for a number of homes in the Wahtonka Road area of Sandlin Road, off Cherry Heights road south of The Dalles, Friday afternoon, Aug. 8. The fire, which ignited at the junction of Chenowith and Browns Creek roads, was quickly extinguished and the evacuation lifted.

Engines roared down Chenowith Road early Friday afternoon in a race against time to snuff out flames that had swiftly taken hold of trees, grass and structures nestled at the Browns Creek Road intersection.

Firefighters tromped through grassy orchards to douse runaway flame trails with jets of water as others raced by in trucks to the source of the blaze at the bottom of the hill. Some were barely visible through the smoke that hung thickly over the scene.

Tracee Sallee, whose parents reside on upper Chenowith Road, appeared worried as she paced back and forth along the side of the road at incident command.

“We have a ranch, three homes and all of our cows and horses down there,” she said. “No one was home as far as I know.”

Charlotte Dupree was also on scene. Her boyfriend, Ed Sallee, is a resident of Chenowith Road. She said he had just invested in property in the area.

“It is what it is,” she said with a shrug. “Of course I have personal property of my own down there, and we have some cattle that graze up on Government Flat, but you think I’m risking my life for those and a few horses?” she said. “If we lose some, we lose some. There’s no need to panic. It sounds like everyone’s safe.”

Dupree said at least five families she knew of lived in the area of the fire.

“There are definitely more dwellings down there than that, though,” she said. “Because that’s not even counting all the renters on the property.”

She said she found it a bit ironic she’d undergone wildfire fighting training two years ago and had “taken her name off the list” just last year.

“It’s just one of those things,” Dupree said calmly. “Ranchers tend to pull together and do what they can to help each other out… So if you’ve at least got insurance, there’s really not too much to worry over.”

When help arrived, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue Division Chief Dan Hammel said it was so chaotic, “everyone started doing everything at once.”

“When I arrived on scene, there was fire on all sides down here, so our immediate objective was to start deploying resources as quickly as they arrived,” he said. “Life safety was our number one priority.”

Hammel said everyone who had been at home at the time of the incident appeared to have been safely removed from danger. As of 3:25 p.m., no injuries or loss of life had been reported.

Two helicopters were called in from the Oregon State Department of Forestry to provide aerial support with huge bucketful’s of water drawn from nearby sources.

“One concern we had going in was that the fire might climb its way up to Cherry Heights,” Hammel said. “But thankfully it seems like we’ve got it under control.” By around 3:20, the blaze had quieted and much of the smoke had cleared from the area. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

According to Hammel, one task force was released from the Rowena fire in order to help fight the one which had so unexpectedly come to life along Chenowith Road.

“It all happened so fast, everyone was doing everything they could to knock it down right from the start,” he said. “And we all came out equipped and ready to do it.”

Other responders, Hammel said, included forces from the Hood River Fire District, Dufur, Columbia Rural and the National Forest Service.

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Comments

TiiahnaD 4 months, 1 week ago

LOL My MOTHER is not his "boyfriend" and she doesn't own property. She owns animals. Gotta love the media and their "quoting"

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TiiahnaD 4 months, 1 week ago

And that isn't the reason she stopped fire fighting. and "Charlotte Dupree's?" GRAMMAR PEOPLE

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kathyjog 4 months, 1 week ago

Hey, thanks for pointing out our editing error. We weren't putting out the fires last week, but we were sure scrambling to keep up with them!

-- Editor

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vosborne 4 months, 1 week ago

I believe your mother was referring to the "personal property" kept at her boyfriend's home, rather than land.

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