DUFUR – Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the area southwest of Dufur where the South Valley Fire is threatening 80 to 100 homes.
The blaze southwest of Dufur involved 15,000 acres as of Thursday morning and was about 5 percent contained.
Officials from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Oregon Department of Forestry held a news conference Thursday morning. They said the fire that began about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday was fed by wheat, grass, Ponderosa pine and scrub oak.
More than 100 farmers, organized under the Wasco Rural Fire Protection District, are reportedly helping with the firefighter effort.
The wind is blowing the fire southeast and threatening 80 to 100 homes.
Highway 197 was closed Wednesday afternoon and evening, opening early Thursday morning.
The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office says residents in the following areas are under a Level 3 evacuation notice, meaning they need to leave now:
• 83000 block of Rail Hollow Road to the forest boundary.
• Shell Rock Road to Winslow Road
• South Valley Road south to Friend Road
• Dufur Gap Road
• Hix Road, Kingsley Road and all points in between; from Hwy 197 to the forest boundary
• All of Tygh Ridge Road.
Under Level 2 are the area north of “the blinking light” (Hwy 197 & 216) to Conroy Road and the top of Sherar’s Bridge. It includes Hulse Road.
The Oregon Department of Forestry said people need to evacuate firefighters can focus on controlling the fire, not on recovery efforts.
The fire has already burned structures, but state officials did not know Thursday morning how many had been destroyed.
A red flag warning remains in effect due to the smoke generated by the flames.
The fire had closed a 20-mile stretch of Highway 197 south of Dufur, but it reopened Thursday morning. Oregon Department of Transportation will continue monitoring the area.
There is a Red Cross shelter open for evacuees at The Dalles Middle School.
Community members have offered to help take in livestock and horses within the evacuated area:
The South Valley Fire is the third major wildfire to ignite in Wasco County in as many weeks. All are believed to be human caused.