In Short

Fire in Wasco County prompts conflagration order, Fire Marshal mobilizes resources

By: - August 3, 2022 8:38 am

Recent wildfires in the West have scorched wide swaths of land and destroyed countless structures in the West, including in Oregon. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

UPDATED: Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 at 10:44 a.m.

A fire ignited in Wasco County on Tuesday afternoon quickly swept through dry brush, grass and juniper bushes, prompting evacuation orders and a state conflagration declaration.

Late Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown declared a conflagration, prompted by the threat to residents. 

“I have invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act to make more state resources available to the fire crews on the front lines in Wasco County at the Miller Road/Dodge Fire,” Brown said in a statement. “With many fires actively burning across the state and several weeks of peak fire season ahead of us, I am urging all Oregonians to be prepared and do their part to help prevent wildfires – just one spark can light a fire that will quickly spread.”

The Miller Road/Dodge Fire south of The Dalles spread to 1,000 acres by Tuesday evening. It is located near the community of Juniper Flats east of Maupin. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office ordered some residents to evacuate and others to be ready to go. According to a post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page on Wednesday, residents from Victor Road and Walters Road North and South of 216 to Highway 197 is at Level 3 evacuation order, which means leave immediately.  Other areas are at Level 2, which means get ready to leave. There is a shelter at Dufur High Shool, and the fairgrounds is open for livestock and horses, the sheriff’s office said. Highway 216 is open.

It’s not clear how many people need to be evacuated or how many were put on alert to get ready to leave.

“Right now we ask that folks who live in the area to monitor the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office social media accounts for evacuation information,” John Hendricks, a spokesman for the Fire Marshal’s Office, said in an email.

Declaring the Conflagration Act clears the way for the state to marshal resources. The state Fire Marshal has mobilized firefighters and equipment to assist in battling the fire, Brown said in her statement. Firefighters from Klickitat County in Washington State and Hood River in Oregon are on the scene, and the Lane County task force, which had been in Deschutes County, is headed to the fire to help. In addition, the marshal’s office will bring in other resources, the statement said.

Hendricks said the Marshal’s Office hopes to bring in five county task forces. Each has up to 14 firefighters, four engines and a water tender. The state Fire Marshal’s Facebook page showed that Polk County resources deployed to the scene along with a Columbia County task force.

The fire is the latest in the region. Fires have been burning in northern California and southern Oregon for days. The McKinney Fire, which has scorched more than 56,000 acres, has caused four deaths, destroyed buildings and threatens more than 4,500 other structures, according to California authorities.

Brown urged residents to take steps to prevent fires. A majority are caused by humans.

Every fire we prevent helps us keep our communities and firefighters safe, and our natural resources protected,” Brown said.

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.