Wildfire near Dufur grows to 20,000 acres

Hwy. 197, Deschutes River have reopened

DUFUR, Ore. - (Update: Fire grows to 20,000 acres, 5 pct, contained; Highway 197, Deschutes River Access Road now open)

The third large, wind-whipped wildfire to hit the Dufur area of north-central Oregon in recent weeks raced across 20,000 acres Wednesday, burning at least one structure and jumping U.S. Highway 197 while prompting evacuations and another closure of the lower Deschutes River. As of Thursday morning, it was 5 percent contained and road was open again.

Here's Thursday morning's update on the fire, from the Oregon Department of Forestry:

The South Valley Fire was reported at 1:30 PM Wednesday afternoon burning in Ponderosa Pine, oak and wheat southwest of Dufur.  The fire’s origin was off of South Valley Road, southwest of Dufur. Afternoon winds pushed the fire more than five miles to the southeast and across Highway 197. The fire is currently estimated at 20,000 acres.  Containment is at 5 percent.


The fire started on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands. The incident is in unified command with ODF and the Oregon State Fire Marshal. Incident management teams from both agencies will take command today from the initial attack incident commander.


Initial attack

Yesterday’s initial attack resources worked extensively to suppress the fire and provide structure protection. Air resources included large air tankers, very large air tankers, Washington Department of Natural Resources FireBoss scoopers, ODF Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and several helicopters. Ground resources totaled 150 firefighters, including crews and engines from ODF and the U.S. Forest Service, additional engines from Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue and other local rural fire departments, and contract dozers. Local ranchers were also engaged on the fire.


Three task forces from the Oregon State Fire Marshal arrived on the fire in the evening to focus on structure protection, with three more task forces arriving this morning.


Firefighters remained on the fire throughout the night. A burnout operation along Tygh Ridge Road tied the southeast corner of the fire into recently burned Long Hollow Fire. 


Today’s plan

213 firefighters are on the fire today and will be supported by four dozers and 13 engines. Air resources will be called in again as needed and as visibility allows. Firefighters will be continuing to get additional containment while providing structure protection.


The State Fire Marshal has stated that at least one structure has been lost. State Fire Marshal personnel are in the field determining the extent of the fire’s impact to structures.



Wasco County Sheriff has implemented Level 3 evacuation orders.  For details on evacuation orders, call 541-506-2792 or visit Wasco County Sheriff’s Facebook page.  Potential spread of the fire toward the Deschutes River prompted the Bureau of Land Management to implement a Level 3 evacuation order in Segment 3 of the river corridor from Sandy Beach to Mack’s Canyon.


There are 80 homes threatened by the fire with 400 people under a Level 3 evacuation. A shelter is available in The Dalles for those displaced by the fire.  Contact the Red Cross at 1-888-680-1455. 


For additional information visit the fire web pages at:



The Lower Deschutes River Access Road was closed Thursday evening, but with forward progress of the fire stopped and more crews on hand, authorities reopened the road and the area from Maupin City Park to Sherars Bridge Thursday morning. 



Earlier story:


The South Valley Fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. about five miles southwest of Dufur, and spread to the southeast, crossing U.S. Highway 197 south of Dufur.. A growing list of Level 3 evacuation orders and lower-level pre-evacuation alerts were posted throughout the afternoon and evening by the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office to its Facebook page.

The fire was human-caused, though the specifics were under investigation, according to Christie Shaw, Central Oregon District spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Forestry. ODF is the lead agency on the fire because the fire began on state-protected lands in a mix of Ponderosa pine, oak and grass as it pushed east.

Shaw said Wednesday evening there was “significant potential for it to reach the Deschutes River sometime overnight or early morning,” so the BLM issued a Level 3 evacuation order along Segment 3 of the river, from Sandy Beach to Mack's Canyon.

Resources on the fire Wednesday included large air tankers, very large air tankers, Washington Department of Natural Resources FireBoss scoopers, ODF Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs), several helicopters, ground crews and engines from ODF and the U.S. Forest Service, additional engines from Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue and other local rural fire departments, and contract bulldozers. 

Shaw said about 150 fire personnel battled in the fire Wednesday afternoon and evening, with more resources arriving overnight from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office. Firefighters planned to take advantage of increased humidity and reduced wind overnight to engage the fire and build fire line while the fire behavior is moderated.      

More resources have been ordered and will arrive Thursday  Aerial resources will be supporting ground suppression activities Thursday morning.

TV helicopters showed structures burning, but Shaw had no early word if they were homes, outbuildings or a mix of both.

Gov. Kate Brown said she invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act Wednesday evening as the fire, pushed by 45 mph winds, grew quickly.

At the time of the declaration, 100 homes were threatened, and the fire was moving quickly toward Highway 197, which it eventually crossed.

ODOT closed a 20-mile stretch of the highway south of The Dalles, from milepost 14 to 34, and without a detour in place, drivers were urged to use other routes. The road reopened Thursday morning.

"I am sending the resources the firefighters need on the ground to ensure they can act swiftly to keep families and homes safe," Brown said. "Early reports are that this may be human caused. Oregonians need to use the utmost caution and remain safe, vigilant, and ensure they are honoring all fire restrictions. People traveling through the area should use extreme caution because of the smoke in the air."

In accordance with ORS 476.510 - 476.610, Brown determined that a threat to life, safety, and property exists due to the fire, and the threat exceeds the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment. The governor's declaration authorizes the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal to mobilize resources to assist local resources battling the fire.

The Office of State Marshal’s Green Incident Management Team and three structural task forces from Clackamas, Washington and Clatsop counties were mobilized and were expected to arrive late Wednesday night.

The sheriff's office told residents between South Valley Road and Friend Road and between Hix Road and Kingsley Road on Wednesday afternoon to leave the area immediately. 

Last month's deadly Substation Fire burned about 80,000 acres in the same region, while the more recent Long Hollow Fire, which broke out five miles south of Dufur, was at 33,451 acres and 95 percent contained as of Wednesday.

Year-to-date, Shaw said, the ODF Central Oregon District has responded to 48 human-caused fires that have burned nearly 350 acres. That's nine more than the 10-year average for this time period.

Fuel conditions throughout the region continue to be very dry, she said, with the potential for rapid fire growth from every spark. A regulated closure is in effect for ODF’s Central Oregon District.  Specific restrictions can be found at   

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