One dead, 50,000 acres burn in Substation Fire

Northern Oregon southeast of The Dalles

Above: Substation Fire. Incident Management Team photo, July 18, 2018.

(Originally published at 6:33 a.m. PDT July 19, 2018)

Since the Substation Fire started July 17 southeast of The Dalles, Oregon it has claimed the life of one person and burned over 50,000 acres. The fire has blackened an area approximately 18 miles long by 8 miles wide, and has jumped the Lower Deschutes River in at least two places.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office reported that at 1:30 p.m. on July 18 deputies answered a call about a burnt tractor. They found the operator a short distance away, deceased, apparently killed by exposure to the fire. The operator may have been attempting to suppress the fire by using the tractor and disk to construct a fireline. The release of the person’s name is pending notification of next of kin.

The Sheriff’s Office has the most current information about the areas under evacuation orders. They have boats patrolling the river to notify hikers and boaters.

Officials have closed Highway 97 from Biggs Junction to Highway 197.

The Governor declared the fire a conflagration Wednesday, which allows the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighting resources.

map substation fire
Map showing heat on the Substation Fire detected by satellites as late as 2:59 a.m. PDT July 19, 2018. The red icons are the most current. It is likely that in some areas light fuels such as wheat and grass burned and cooled in between satellite overflights, therefore was not detected by the sensors. Click to enlarge.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Thursday. The forecast for the fire area calls for 78 degrees, 25 percent relative humidity, and afternoon winds out of the northwest of 19 gusting to 27 — not good news for firefighters.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team (Schulte) has been assigned to the fire.

One structure has been destroyed, an often photographed historic home.

Substation Fire
Substation Fire. Incident Management Team photo, July 18, 2018.
Substation Fire
Substation Fire. Incident Management Team photo, July 18, 2018.

The video below was uploaded by the Incident Management Team to Facebook on July 18, 2018.

Lightning leaves behind many fires in Oregon

Approximately 2,800 lightning strikes since Friday have caused 163 wildfires in Oregon

Above: The red dots represent wildfire heat in Oregon detected by a satellite at 3:34 a.m. PDT July 18, 2018.

(Originally published at 3:56 p.m. PDT July 18, 2018)

Thunderstorms over the weekend have created a great deal of work for firefighters in Oregon. At least 163 wildfires were detected in the state after 2,800 lightning strikes peppered the area since Friday. By Wednesday morning the numbers have settled down to 47 fires that have burned over 22,000 acres, according to the Department of Forestry Wednesday morning. However since those numbers were released the Substation Fire (see below) has been mapped at 36,000 acres. Dozens of fires are burning in the southwest corner of the state on the Umpqua, Rogue River, Winema, and Siskiyou National Forests.

The lightning was predicted days in advance. Many of the land management agencies proactively imported additional firefighting resources to deal with the anticipated workload following the lightning bust.

In Central Oregon firefighters are battling the 1,300-acre lightning-caused Cemetery Fire 12 miles southwest of Paulina. It started July 16 and is burning on the Ochoco National Forest and lands protected by the BLM and the State of Oregon.

Substation fire Deschutes River
The Substation Fire has jumped the Deschutes River in Oregon at least twice. Photographer unknown. Uploaded to Facebook July 18, 2018.

In north-central Oregon a few miles south of the Washington state line and The Dalles, the Substation Fire that started Tuesday has blackened about 36,000 acres and has jumped the Deschutes River at least twice. Evacuations are taking place in Sherman County. Officials have not released the cause of the fire.

The video below, described as “incredible, horrifying” by KATU News, shows a fire engine on the Substation Fire making an “inside-out attack”, or “attacking from the black”. This is a well known tactic and can be less hazardous than driving in flammable vegetation while making a mobile attack.