Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eratic Conditions Contribute To Satus Fire

GOLDENDALE — More than 150 homes were evacuated and hundreds of firefighters poured into the region as the Mile Marker 28 Fire more than doubled on Friday.

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Fire crews started cutting containment lines around the 4,646-acre wildfire burning in heavy timber and brush, but efforts were slowed by high temperatures and winds blowing across remote, canyon-laced terrain about 15 miles north of Goldendale. 

Only about 3 percent of the fire was considered contained by early Friday evening.
Erratic winds forced firefighters to pull back at times during the day as they dug lines on the fire’s southwestern edge using bulldozers and hand tools, Bernie Pineda, a spokesman with the fire command team, said. “A Caterpillar did get chased out of there, because it got a little bit too hairy.” 

Officials said the fire could quickly jump or turn on firefighters. The flames were reported spreading at more than 100 feet per minute through grass and brush at times.

“Right now we don’t have a hard line on very much of this fire. During the day we won’t be able to attack because of weather conditions,” said Mark Grassel, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources. “With any fire, Mother Nature is in control.”
Crews weren’t expected to make much progress until Friday night, when temperatures were expected to fall and winds become more favorable, he said.

However, a National Weather Service red flag warning remains in effect until this evening.
Conditions are expected to stay dry and hot, with moderate winds until tonight, when conditions will cool down through Sunday, said Rod Brooks, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
On Friday, fire officials reported that a fire lookout was destroyed and a firefighter was injured Thursday, but they didn’t immediately know the extent of injuries.

About 800 firefighters and 30 engines from Washington and Oregon were on the scene Friday, with more en route. 

Six helicopters and two airplanes attacked the flames from above.

The cause of the fire, which started late Wednesday morning, remains under investigation.
Most details on Friday’s evacuations, which were ordered in the early afternoon by the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office, were unavailable. Informational meetings for residents are planned tonight and Sunday.

The Red Cross shelter at Our Father’s House Fellowship, 207 S. Klickatat Ave. in Goldendale, was empty at midday Friday except for shelter staff. Behind the church’s front doors, three women — all local volunteers — chatted about social doings in town, waiting for anyone in need to come in.

Only a handful of residents have slept there — four Wednesday night and two Thursday, said Red Cross spokeswoman Julie Miller.

Despite the expanded evacuation area, only three people had come in by Friday evening for a place to sleep, but “we are preparing for more,” she said.

Even if people have a place to stay, they can come by the shelter for meals, snacks, toiletries, baby supplies, other necessities, information, or just to talk to someone during a stressful time, Miller said. “Our doors are open, and people are welcome.”

As of Friday evening, the unincorporated communities of Bickleton and Cleveland appeared to be out of the fire’s path, Pineda said. The 1998 Cleveland Fire skirted both towns, but destroyed several homes in the area.

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