Rowena wildfire grows to 2,645 acres; 275 homes under evacuation order
Stuart Tomlinson | firstname.lastname@example.org By
on August 07, 2014 at 9:51 AM, updated August 07, 2014 at 9:56 AM
Despite its ferocity, firefighters and homeowners were able to keep the flames from the Rowena fire burning between Mosier and The Dalles from destroying homes and buildings late Wednesday into Thursday.
The fire, which started Tuesday night at around 9:30 p.m., burned rapidly through grass, timber and brush, growing to 2,645 acres, said Tom Knappenberger, a spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland. It is 0 percent contained.
Winds calmed down overnight, but are forecast to pick back up during the afternoon Thursday, typically the most active time for wildfires. Officials said approximately 300 structures were protected by 6 structural team task forces.
The estimated cost of fighting the blaze is $937,000, officials said.
Gusts of up to 35 mph, temperatures of around 90 degrees and low humidity levels and steep, rugged terrain will challenge firefighters Thursday.
Knappenberger said 300 homes, 100 mixed residential/commercial structures and 150 minor structures are threatened by the fire; about 275 of those homes were put under a level 3 (go!) evacuation order.
About 430 firefighters are battling the blaze, which can be seen burning on the slopes above Interstate 84 and into the narrow canyon where the unincorporated town of Rowena sits. Among the 430 firefighters are 10, 20-person hand crews; 6 helicopters performing bucket drops and 28 engine crews.
Fire bosses said on Thursday they will focus on reinforcing containment lines on the eastern edge of the fire and securing fire lines on the fire's northwest end.
Lt. Justin de Ruyter, a spokesman for Oregon state fire marshal's office, said the fire can easily make 2- and 3-mile runs in a matter of hours.
"The last time this area burned the fire made it all the way to The Dalles before it was stopped," de Ruyter said, which began about 8 miles northwest of town. The cause remains under investigation.
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Level 3 (GO) evacuations are now in place for all areas east of the fire perimeter and west of Irvine Street, southwest to Murray's Addition. This includes all areas that were previously a Level 1, including Foley Lakes, Simonelli Road, Tooley Terrace, and Adeline Way, as well as all residences along Hwy 30 between exit 82 and the Rowena interchange.
Level 1 (Get Ready) evacuation notices are currently in place for all residences along Chenoweth Loop West and Division street developments.
A shelter has been established at Dry Hollow Elementary for those displaced by the fire. Home at Last continues to offer their services.
Updates are being recorded to the Rowena Fire hotline at 541-506-2792.
A public information meeting is scheduled for 7:00 pm at The Dalles/Wahtonka High School, 220 East 10th Street in The Dalles. This meeting is open to all members of the public and media. Fire managers will provide a current status update and be available to address questions and concerns
-- Stuart Tomlinson