PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act for the White River Fire as it reached nearly 10,000 acres and prompted Level 3 evacuations for nearby Pine Grove residents.
Brown approved the act on Friday morning after determining that a threat to life, safety, and property exists due to the fire — and that threat exceeds the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting resources. The Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal is now able to mobilize resources to assist local crews battling the flames.
“This month, firefighting resources have been stretched to deal with 11 large wildfires,” Brown said in a statement released by her office. “I am asking all Oregonians to remain vigilant with any activity that could spark a wildfire. We all need to do our part to help the many firefighters who are on the frontlines by preventing human-caused wildfires during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are heading outdoors this weekend, please follow all fire restrictions.”
Officials said the area east from Bear Springs Ranger Station along Hwy 216 through Pine Grove to the intersection of Endersby Road and 216, also included are all of Endersby Road, Linns Mill Road and Kelly Springs Road have now been placed on Level 3 GO Evacuation Notice. As of Friday afternoon, the blaze had burned nearly 10,000 acres and was at 10% containment, nearly doubling in size overnight.
The fire is threatening about 300 structures, 60 of which are in nearby Pine Grove. There are Level 2 evacuations for those who live east of Pine Grove, where residents are being urged to “Get Set” and be ready to leave if necessary.
Officials say their main objective on Friday is to make sure they protect the Pine Grove community after inferno’s significant advance overnight.
“Our concern is the wind that is coming in tonight and so we brought in three task forces,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Lt. Damon Simmons said.
Katy O’Hara, the public information officer for the White River Fire, said crews are also fighting the inferno by air, as FEMA announced it had approved funds to help with the fire.
“The biggest challenge right now is nationally we are at what’s considering a Planning Level 5, resources are stretched thin across the country” due to other wildfires in Oregon, California and Colorado, O’Hara added.
The American Red Cross opened a temporary shelter at Maupin High School on Thursday but closed it by Friday morning after the fire advance overnight. A new shelter for evacuees was opened at the Shilo Inn in The Dalles. The Red Cross can be reached at 1-888-680-1455.
The fire was discovered on Aug. 17 and performed an initial attack on the White River Fire on the Mount Hood National Forest, about 13 miles southeast of Government Camp at an elevation of 3,700 feet. Authorities have determined lightning started the fire.
Earlier this week a firefighting helicopter pilot died in a crash while working the battle the White River Fire.