By MARK GIBSON
and ELROY KING
Gorge News Report
Two fires sparked by a passing train burned through Dallesport last Thursday, but residents and structures escaped unscathed, according to Dallesport Fire Chief Rhet Howard.
The fires underscored a growing hazard from dry weather, even as Mid-Columbia fire protection agencies yesterday banned all debris burning, including incinerators.
Both fires started at 11 a.m. The largest started just west of Dallesport on the tracks below Murdock. It burned 300 to 400 acres, and threatened seven to 10 homes and Dallesport Trailer Park, Howard said. The fire ran from the tracks east to Tidyman Road after jumping Dallesport Road.
The Dallesport Fire Department was assisted by crews and equipment from Bingen, White Salmon, Lyle, High Prairie, Appleton, Centerville, Wishram, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue and Hood River.
A second fire, sparked by the same train, burned four acres east of Dallesport near The Dalles Dam. That fire was handled by Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service crews, Howard said.
Ironically, the Dallesport department anticipated delivery of a new fire engine last Thursday, Howard said. "We'll be picking it up in Biggs," he said.
Elsewhere, a grass fire in the 1900 block of Highway 197 south of The Dalles burned about two acres of grass and brush Thursday afternoon. The fire was reported at 12:36 p.m. next to the road, and crews from Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue were joined by crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service Scenic Area crews. Crews from Hood River manned the local station.
Mid-Columbia Fire Chief Joe Richardson said the fire threatened a residence and several outbuildings.
Cause of the fire is under investigation. MCF&R sent one unit to help in the Dallesport Fire and there was also a two-acre fire in Sherman County south of Rufus near the intersection of Scott Canyon and Medler roads.
Burn ban in place
Mid-Columbia Fire Prevention Cooperative announced that because of the hot, dry weather, as well as the lack of available firefighting resources, area fire agencies have determined that all debris burning, including incinerator use, is banned in the mid-Columbia area until further notice. This includes Hood River and Wasco counties as well as Sherman and Klickitat counties, which already have bans in effect.
Some exceptions may be made for some agricultural purposes, but permission must be granted by a local fire agency. All current burn permits became void last Friday, July 29, and won't be valid again until the burning ban is lifted. This includes incinerator barrels as well as debris piles.
Restrictions are already in place for campfires, barbecues, chainsaw use, off-road vehicle use and smoking in timber, brush and grass areas.
The Wasco County Court reinforced the ban with its own order last Thursday, prohibiting residential burning, including burn piles and burn barrels, in areas of the county outside fire protection districts. That order took effect as of 11:01 a.m. today, and will remain in effect until further notice.