Level-III evacuations ordered for wildfire near The Dalles - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Gorge winds continue to whip up wildfire; 'This is not a normal fire'


Wind gusts in the Columbia River Gorge continued to drive a 6,400-acre wildfire that has already destroyed two homes and five other buildings.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered Monday for some people living in The Dalles.

Firefighters are crossing their fingers for better weather, but the Gorge winds are proving to be a massive challenge for crews.

"Our firefighters have been pushed to every limit with this fire," said fire spokesman Tom Fields. "This is not a normal fire by any means of the imagination. What we're dealing with is troubling Gorge winds, but there's also canyons involved. Once the (winds) get in those canyons, they can go in any direction."

Fire officials said they're seeing fire growth on all sides of the wildfire.

A Level-III evacuation order was first issued for Obrist Road, west of the intersection with Dutch Flat Road. Later, the same order was issued for about 50 buildings in the area between 9595 Mill Creek Road and all of Reservoir Road. At 8 p.m. Monday, officials extended the evacuation order along Mill Creek Road.

Though it's the homeowner's choice, Fields said all residents who leave will not be allowed back in until the evacuation order is lifted.

The Blackburn Fire now stands at 6,400 acres. It is part of the Government Flat complex fires, which cover 6,700 acres and are 10 percent contained.

More than 700 firefighters are battling the fire, and their temporary home at The Dalles-Wahtonka High School has become a tent city.

For residents, the American Red Cross has established a shelter for those forced from their homes at Dry Hollow Elementary School, 1314 E. 19th St., The Dalles. The Home At Last Humane Society also opened its doors to pets of evacuees. The executive director said 20 dogs and cats were being sheltered there, and they are prepared to accept more animals.

A community meeting is being held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue (1400 W 8th St. in The Dalles). Fields said officials will provide The Dalles residents with a full update on firefighting efforts.

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