Four homes and 48 outbuildings were lost in the Substation Fire, along with four industrial buildings, eight commercial vehicles and an RV, an official said Saturday.
Four homes were damaged, as were two commercial buildings, said Rich LaBelle, operations section chief for the Oregon State Fire Marshal, at a community meeting in Grass Valley.
The 80,000 acre fire is still at 44 percent containment, but that is expected to increase significantly Saturday and Sunday, said Incident Commander Ian Yocum.
Structures have a 150-foot perimeter around them that they ensured have no hotspots and are cold to the touch, he said.
Sherman County Sheriff Brad Lohrey drew a loud round of applause as he lauded local fire fighters and farmers for battling and controlling the blaze.
“I haven’t been through an incident this big in my career and I gotta tell you I am very proud to be the sheriff of Sherman County,” he said. “You guys shine. You guys in Sherman County and the folks of Wasco County showed the folks how to get things done, and we did it, this thing is done.”
He added, “You guys, you citizens, made this happen, five days for an 80,000 acre fire, we got it done, that is impressive.”
He said not one person complained about evacuation orders, “they just got out.”
All level 3 (go) evacuation orders for the county were reduced to Level 2 (ready) and could drop to Level 1 (set) soon, said Yocum after the meeting.
Yocum asked the group to take a moment to think of the family of John Ruby, who died in Wasco County Wednesday as he was discing a fireline to protect a neighbor’s property.
He said “this was one of the fastest fires we’ve had in a low time, to grow just in three days to almost 80,000 acres, it was an explosion of fire” with flames 30-40 feet high.
“All those farmers put their lives on the line for their neighbors and this community,” he said.
Jim Johnson, land use specialist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, urged farmers to call their insurance agencies and to thoroughly document losses.
He also said a basic crop insurance policy does not cover fire, and you need to have a fire rider for it to be covered.
He said regardless of available assistance now, things can change quickly in terms of available assistance once congressional delegations get involved.
He said most assistance is in loans, and he didn’t know if grant programs would be available. He also said there are indemnity programs for livestock..
He said the Oregon Department of Agriculture was trying to assess the damage, but it’s difficult since “we don’t have any numbers yet.”
Wasco and Sherman counties are different in terms of types of crop and practices going on, he said, and he would reach out to soil and water conservation districts for help.
Tyler Stone, Wasco County administrative officer, also urged people to contact their insurance. “Many insurance policies have a 72-hour window [to make a claim], so make the call.”
He said officials have talked to State Rep. Bonham and the governor’s office about programs available at the federal, state and local level.
On July 30 from 4-7 p.m. will be a meeting at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center in The Dalles with federal, state and local agencies represented to help with things like insurance, building codes, permitting for rebuilding, loans, and grant programs.
On July 31, the same meeting will happen at Sherman County High School, again from 4-7 p.m.
Friday was a good day on the fire, and Saturday was even better, said Kyle Cannon, operations section chief for the Pacific Northwest Team 2.
There’d been no fire spreadover along 78 miles of fire perimeter for the last two days, he said.
Johnson said that historically wildlife do well in fires.