PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Level 3 “Go” evacuations were reduced to Level 2 “Get Set” Friday afternoon as a wildfire consumed brush, grass and timber west of The Dalles.
Authorities said the Milepost 78 Fire started shortly after 10 a.m. as three separate fires (and two much smaller fires that only burned “spots”) about half a mile apart between the railroad tracks and Interstate 84 near Mayer State Park. Highway 30 was temporarily closed between mileposts 66 and 72 as crews battled the flames. Smoke from the fires shut down a stretch of Interstate 84 but all eastbound lanes and one westbound lane have since reopened.
The Level 3 evacuation notice from 5220 Hwy 30 West to 6090 Hwy 30 West was reduced by 4 p.m. and residents could return to their homes. Rowena to Simmonelli Road is under a Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation notice at this time.
The latest evacuation information is available on the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
The fire burned under seven acres before crews were able to stop its forward progress, the Oregon Department of Forestry said at about 1:30 p.m. Firefighters said the blaze was 20% contained by the end of the night and work would continue to finish setting up a perimeter on Saturday morning.
Rick Fletcher with ODF said the fire stayed on the north side of I-84, which was crucial.
“What really did the ticket and what kept it from jumping the freeway were the Fire Bosses [aircraft] that are on legislative money given to ODF to bring assets through June 30. If we did not have those assets on this fire, it would have been a very different story,” he said.
It’s unclear at this time how the Rowena Fire started but an investigation will be carried out. Wasco County Sheriff’s Office will reassess the conditions Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, the S-503 Fire on the Warm Springs Reservation is currently at 50% containment after burning more than 6,600 acres, or just over 10 square miles, for several days now.
Stay with KOIN 6 for the latest updates.