On Saturday I drove up to The Dalles to spend some time at Wahtonka High School – base camp for the wild fire. From I-84 and the center of The Dalles, there is basically no evidence that a forest fire still burns in the area, so when I showed up at the school, about 10 miles from the fire, I was shocked to see the school grounds almost entirely covered in tents with over a 1,000 fire fighters and personnel. What I saw in the next hour blew me away as I spent some time with the night crew before heading off to work. Here is a video I took of my experience.
Some quick stats
On Saturday there were 1,023 personnel assigned; today that number is 1,055. Total cost as of Saturday was $7,738,450; today that total is $10,200,000. There were 37 handcrews, 32 engines, 10 helicopter, 14 dozers, and 15 water tenders working Saturday; today there are 35 handcrews, 36 engines, 12 dozers, 15 water tenders, and 8 helicopters. The fire was 25% contained Saturday and is now 45% contained, though on Saturday threats to structures had been minimized, today there are 83 residential/82 outbuildings being threatened!
Here is an update I received from David Morman at base camp this morning.
Blackburn Fire Update:
What makes a good firefighter? Along with other skills, it is their ability to mop-up one piece of real estate at a time – grid it, look it over with a fine tooth comb, and hand rototill until no heat is left. Crews are taking advantage of the past couple of days of cool and wet weather, putting control lines against the black (burned area), mopping –up (making sure the area is cold out) and removing hazard snags. As the operation section chief stated, “It is a good day to make hay and accomplish our objective of taking care of this fire.”
As portions of the fire are progressively meeting the desired objectives, personnel are being shifted to other areas of the fire, being demobilized and sent home or to another fire. There should be a noticeable downsizing of the “tent city” at the WahtonkaHigh School.
Fire personnel found yesterday that not all tents, even with rain flies or plastic coverings, are the same. Logistics personnel scrambled to assist firefighters with wet inner tents and bedding, by providing dry sleeping bags and arranging their sleeping in the school’s gym. The gym floor may be harder, but it is dry and warm. The American Red Cross also made blankets available for use, if needed.
Roads within the fire area remain closed to non-residential traffic throughout the day. It is anticipated that all evacuation levels will be lifted this evening. Residents are encouraged to be very cautious when driving due to the high level of suppression vehicles and heavy equipment using the roads in the area.
Recreationists (including bow hunters and bicyclists) are reminded that the Mt.Hood National Forest has implemented an area closure in proximity to the Blackburn Fire. Listings of the road, trail, campground, and general area closures may be found at the Forest web site: Mt Hood National Forest (http://www.fs.usda.gov/mthood) and at http://inciweb.org/incident/maps/3662/
Government Flat Complex at a glance:
Total Complex Acreage: 12,070 Blackburn Fire Acreage: 11,775
Complex Containment: 45 Percent Total Personnel Assigned: 1,055
Structures Lost to the Fire: 4 homes/9 outbuildings. Structures currently threatened: 83 residential/82 outbuildings
Cost of the Incident to Date: $10.2 million
Resources: 35 crews/36engines/12 dozers/15 water tenders/8 helicopters
Ownerships involved: Private, U.S. Forest Service, City of The Dalles, Bureau of Land Management and industrial lands owned by SDS Lumber.
Cooperators include Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State Fire Marshal, BLM, USDA Forest Service, City of The Dalles, Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, WascoCountyEmergencyOperationsCenter, Hood River County Division of Emergency Management, Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, American Red Cross, Oregon National Guard, Oregon State Police and SDS Lumber.