MAUPIN, Ore. — A fire burning in Wasco County that is threatening the communities of Maupin, Tygh Valley and Pine Grove grew substantially Wednesday to 10,500 acres. Multiple communities have either been told to evacuate while others, like Maupin, have been told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
The Miller Road Fire is 0% contained and the cause remains under investigation.
“This is a wind driven fire,” reads a post by the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC). “The fire is burning in heavy dry fuels including grass, shrubs and juniper. The crews are currently evaluating snags along the perimeter of the fire and along Hwy 216. The primary focus is protecting structures and attacking the east and south flank.”
Dry conditions were expected to continue into the night with low humidity and west winds of 8-15 mph, with gusts up to 22 mph.
Maupin is on a Level 2 “Get set” notification for evacuations. Level 3 is “Go now.” The city’s preparations include providing a school bus to an assisted living facility in case everybody needs to leave at a moment’s notice.
“We already have a plan in place where some of our local people will go door-to-door and make sure that people who need to get out, get out,” said Maupin Mayor Lynn Ewing. “We have buses ready to take people from the retirement home out of town. People tend to work together here. Last night one of the local restaurants from up at Wamic took food out to the firefighters who couldn’t come off the line. Around here people pitch in and help without being asked.”
Ewing said he is grateful to Governor Kate Brown for invoking the Conflagration Act Tuesday night in order to get resources to the fire.
Air tankers dropped retardant, helicopters hit hot spots with water and structure protection crews rushed in from around the state, allowed the local volunteer fire departments to focus on battling the fire in hayfields and brush about 10 miles west of town.
“Where I live it’s one way in, one way out,” said Maupin resident Jennifer Schmitz. “It’s one lane. Whoever’s coming you’ve got to move over and make room. If the fire jumps the highway ever, and I know one year it did, then we are in automatic ‘get out’ because it’s nothing but dry grass between us and 197.
NWCC said Highway 216 was back open to traffic as of Wednesday afternoon, but asked drivers to be mindful of emergency vehicles coming through the area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, authorized use of federal funds to help pay 75 percent of the state’s eligible firefighting costs. FEMA said it authorized the grant to prevent a major disaster in the communities of Pine Grove, Tygh Valley and Maupin. The fire threatens a major power transmission line and three communications towers in the area.
Updates are being provided on the Miller Road Fire Facebook page.
The following is a press release from the governor’s office:
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Governor Kate Brown today invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act at 4:50 pm in response to the Miller Road/Dodge Fire in Wasco County. The fire sparked Tuesday afternoon and is burning in grass, brush, and juniper. The fire, located near the community of Juniper Flat, is estimated to be 1,000 acres in size. The Wasco County Sheriff had issued several evacuations orders for homes near the fire.
Currently, local and mutual aid resources are on scene working to slow the progress of the fire. The Lane County task force, which was pre-positioned in Deschutes county is also headed to the fire. The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) Blue Incident Management Team will be briefed and will assume command Wednesday morning. The OSFM will work to bring in five additional task forces through the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System (OFMAS) from counties around Oregon to assist in the response.
“I have invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act to make more state resources available to the fire crews on the front lines in Wasco County at the Miller Road/Dodge Fire,” said Governor Kate Brown. “With many fires actively burning across the state and several weeks of peak fire season ahead of us, I am urging all Oregonians to be prepared and do their part to help prevent wildfires – just one spark can light a fire that will quickly spread. Please continue to follow local and statewide fire prevention regulations and share what you know with others. Every fire we prevent helps us keep our communities and firefighters safe, and our natural resources protected.”
In accordance with ORS 476.510-476.610, Governor 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 cleared the way for the State Fire Marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to assist local resources in battling the fire.
The Office of the State Marshal’s Blue Incident Management Team has been mobilized.
In addition, the responding agencies included Juniper Flats Fire Dist., Klickitat County Fire Dist., Hood River Fire, and the Lane County Task Forces.