Gorge wildfire destroys buildings; crews protect water plant - KPTV - FOX 12

Gorge wildfire destroys buildings; crews protect water plant

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THE DALLES, OR (KPTV) -

A wildfire that has scorched 8,000 acres and destroyed three homes and five outbuildings has also crept toward the water treatment plant for The Dalles. Officials estimated containment at about 13 percent.

Nearly 150 people gathered for a community meeting at fire headquarters Tuesday to get an update on the progress. Sara Burchfield was among them. She lost her home on Mill Creek Road on Sunday.

"What happened has happened, and I have my moments when I break down and cry," Burchfield said. "I've lost a lot, but we got out with our lives."

The manager of the Wicks Water Treatment Plant said he has faith in the firefighters.

"I slept just fine because I had a huge crew down here that had my back," Larry McCollum said. "I have all the confidence in the world in these guys."

Since lightning ignited the Blackburn Fire Friday, the weather has made getting it under control difficult. Crews said the wind was not as erratic Tuesday as it had been the previous day.

Still, protecting the water treatment plant has remained a priority. Monday night, flames burned down one side of the valley, blackening the hill near the plant and the house where the plant manager lives.

An air tanker dropped fire retardant on the other side of the valley above the plant Tuesday. Suppression efforts, including starting small fires to burn out potential fuel like grass and shrubbery, were also designed to keep the fire from reaching the plant and homes along Mill Creek Road.

If the plant does have to shut down, it has four million gallons of water, enough to supply The Dalles for three days.

The hope, however, is that won't be necessary. Firefighters are stationed there 24 hours a day.

Level III evacuation orders were issued for parts of Obrist Road, Mill Creek Road and Reservoir Road Monday.

Though it's the homeowner's choice, a Department of Forestry spokesman said all residents who leave will not be allowed back until the evacuation order is lifted.

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.

The fire, with more than 700 personnel fighting it, was 10-percent contained Tuesday, and the potential for growth was considered high.

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