300 firefighters battle S-503 Fire, 10% contained


S-503 fire began June 18, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — About 300 fire personnel continue to battle the S-503 Fire on the Warm Springs Reservation, which broke out on the afternoon of June 18.

The most recent official statement is that the fire has grown to 6,201 acres covering about 9.5 miles. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday it is 10% contained.

The S-503 Fire is about 2 miles east of Hwy 26 and 7 miles northeast of Simnasho. The hot, dry conditions and relatively low humidity have been a factor in fighting this fire.

Crews have been working to keep the fire from spreading to nearby homes and have been able to hold the north flank, officials say. Firefighters will continue their aggressive work to strengthen lines on the fire’s northern and eastern flanks Tuesday, while predicted afternoon winds and potential thunderstorms may put their efforts to the test.

Warm Springs Wildland Fire spokesperson Javin Dimmick said, “I had one fire behavior analyst basically tell me that there’s more moisture in a piece of printer paper than some of the wood out there — which is wild.”

Meg Krawchuk, and OSU pyrogeographer, told KOIN 6 News “those fires are burning through conditions that are characteristic of what me might see in July.”

Oregon State Climatologist Larry O’Neill painted an ominous picture.

“There’s no meaningful chance that we’re going to have any precipitation event that will change that so I think the table is set for a dryer summer than last year,” O’Neill said.

A burn ban on the Warm Springs Reservation is in effect “until further notice,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and applies to all outdoor and agricultural burning with the exception of ceremonial and traditional fires. The federal agency is also asking reservation residents to reduce other forms of air pollution, including driving and idling vehicles.

Evacuation Levels as of 5 p.m. Monday (Wasco County Sheriff’s Office)

  • Level 2 GET READY: All residences west of the intersection of Kelly Springs Road and Back Walters Road, anything else previously under level 1 east of Kelly Springs to Reservation Rd including Walters Corners and the community of Pine Grove.

As of Monday afternoon, there were about 250 homes and structures in the Pine Grove area under Level 2 evacuation notices.

It’s not clear what caused this fire to start, officials said. The fire is about 92 miles from Portland.

Fire crews staged in Central Oregon

The Oregon State Fire Marshal ordered firefighting resources to be staged in central Oregon because of the weather conditions. One task force of firefighters from Marion County and another from Washington County are stationed there for a quicker response, if necessary. They are not assigned to a particular incident at this time.

Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said, “We can’t control the weather, but we can plan for what we can control, and that is strategically placing resources ahead of this weather event.”

KOIN 6 News will have more information as it develops.

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