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New Gorge wildfire now 50 percent contained

Also: Group of SW Oregon fires near 43,000 acres

MOSIER, Ore. - (Update: Sunday morning update, improved control lines, mop-up work along I-84)

More than 100 homes were evacuated Saturday morning as a new fire spread in the Columbia River Gorge east of Mosier. But by late Sunday, crews had the fire fully lined and 50 percent contained, with evacuations eased and roads reopening.

Here's Sunday's 9 p.m. update on the Memaloose No. 2 Fire:

The Memaloose #2 Fire has multiple positive updates – with containment up to 50%, evacuations eased, and roads reopening. 

All the Level 3 (GO) evacuation areas have been reduced to a Level 2 (GET SET). This affects the following areas: the intersection of Highway 30 and Marsh cutoff east to the bottom of the Rowena loop, this includes both sides of the Highway 30, Rowena Dell, Rowena Overlook, Canyon Way and down to Rowena Ferry Road. Updates for evacuation levels can be found on the Wasco County Sheriff’s Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/WascoCountySheriff/.  No structures were destroyed or damaged by the fire.

Interstate 84 reopened to two lanes of traffic eastbound. The eastbound Memaloose Rest Area remains closed at this time. Highway 30 is once again open with no restrictions at this time.  Marsh Cutoff and Dell Road are open to local traffic only as fire suppression efforts continue in the area.  Continue to check Oregon Department of Transportation Trip Check for up to date road closure information.

Unified Commanders from Oregon Department of Forestry, US Forest Service Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office have evaluated the needs of the Memaloose #2 Fire. They determined structural fire crews and the OSFM Incident Management Team could be progressively released to their home agencies starting around 4:00 p.m. today.  Working together to serve Oregon communities is each agency’s priority and if the needs of the Memaloose #2 Fire change, necessary resources will be brought back to protect the community and surrounding areas.

Crews were challenged today by “burning rollers” and “flaming snags” which at times carried fire into pockets of unburned fuels within the firelines. Firefighters quickly attacked these areas, using available aircraft as needed.  Suppression efforts continue to focus on strengthening containment lines and mopping up the interior of the fire. Mop-up is the difficult and time-intensive work of cooling heat and flames to limit risk of fire moving outside the containment lines. Today firefighters were able to collect GPS information and have mapped the fire perimeter at 167 acres, with an estimated containment of 50%.  Tonight crews will patrol the perimeter, looking for fire outside the fireline. Over the coming days, firefighters will be mopping up a minimum of 300 feet into the interior of the fire. 

Memaloose #2 Fire was reported late Friday evening burning near the eastbound Memaloose Rest Area, south of Interstate 84, three miles east of Mosier. The fire is burning on National Forest System lands in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and state and privately owned lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry and Mosier Fire and Rescue. The cause remains under investigation.

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Among the many fires burning in southwest Oregon are a group referred to as the Miles Fire. Here's the Saturday morning update on those blazes, which have burned nearly 43,000 acres in total:

Forty-one different fire agencies are providing structure protection under the coordination of the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal. These firefighters have checked 1,018 structures and prepared 398 homes to better withstand wildfire conditions. Those preparations were tested overnight with increased fire activity and no homes were lost.

Although fire weather will be slightly moderated today, relative humidity levels remain well below the critical threshold. The fire area has seen minimal moisture since May and is officially in a moderate drought condition. Fuel conditions remain conducive to active fire behavior. When the smoke inversion breaks mid-day, there will be a noticeable increase in fire behavior.

Miles Fire (29,397 acres): The southern flank of the Miles Fire will be the top priority for firefighters today. Late yesterday afternoon, two spot fires occurred outside of the perimeter. One spot is to the east side of Elk Creek Road, just south of the Homestead Trailhead, and is currently estimated to be at least 200 acres. Another spot fire is just north of the Alco Creek area. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft will provide support to crews on the ground today. Smoke columns are anticipated to be visible today as interior islands burn on both northern flanks of the fire.

Columbus Fire (9,311 acres): Crews will continue to patrol and mop up along the Forest Service Road 100 and will burn out as needed. Fuel reduction work along Forest Service Road 160 will occur using masticators.

Snow Shoe Fire (3,816 acres): Two crews will continue mop up operations in an effort to maintain control of current fire lines and to minimize the fires footprint. Removal of unneeded equipment will continue.

Round Top Fire (154 acres): The fire has checked up against control lines on all sides of the fire. Engines will continue to patrol the fire and firefighters will mop all spots within 200 feet of the control lines.

Weather: An upper level trough moving through the Pacific Northwest will bring near normal temperatures and breezy westerly winds today. Temperatures will be 10 degrees less than yesterday, down to the mid 70’s-low 80’s at lower elevations. Winds on the ridges will be sustained from the northwest at 7-12 mph with gusts to 20 mph in the afternoon. Beginning Sunday, an upper level ridge will quickly begin to build back over the area Sunday into the beginning of next week. This weather pattern will lead to a gradual warming trend into the middle of next week.

Smoke Conditions: Moderate to gusty northwest winds today should maintain the improved air quality from yesterday. Winds will become light tonight and into Sunday. Light winds will continue into next week and stagnant smoky conditions may return to the area.

Evacuations: Local sheriff’s offices are in charge of area evacuations. Residents of Jackson and Josephine counties may check their current evacuation status here: https://bit.ly/2uUku2C.

In Douglas County, a Level 2 evacuation notice was issued to residents living in and between the following addresses: 1642 through 3200 (Flats Ranch) Tison Road and also to two properties north of Columbus Fire (Tallow Butte & Cultus Ranch).

Evacuee Assistance: Evacuees seeking assistance may contact the American Red Cross at 1-888-680-1455. The shelter is currently on standby at Eagle Point High School.


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