WHITE SALMON, Wash. - Fire crews continued their effort Saturday to contain a 1,600-acre fire burning in rugged terrain near the Columbia River Gorge as fire officials met with community members.
High temperatures and shifting winds pushed smoke from the fire into the Portland metro area Friday.
Smoke from the fire also blew south into the Hood River area on Friday as winds shifted around.
White Salmon School District Superintendent Dr Jerry Lewis said a high school football game scheduled for Friday was moved to Toledo because of smoke from the fire.
The "Highway 141 Fire" was about 1,614 acres in size Saturday morning and more than 600 firefighters were working the blaze, which was 40 percent contained, fire officials said. Officials said they were hoping to have the fire contained by Sept. 13.
Firefighters also lifted all the mandatory evacuation orders on Friday morning. The only evacuation orders still in place are so-called "level 2" orders, which means residents can return to their homes but should be prepared to leave again on short notice.
Stan Hinatsu with the U.S. Forest Service said they are "cautiously optimistic" about continued containment of the fire.
Ground crews and several aircraft continue to battle the fire, which is burning in rough terrain near White Salmon, located across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon.
Crews let the blaze burn down to Highway 141 in spots Friday morning. The pavement forms a natural firebreak.
Firefighter Nick Butler is one of those crew members. He spent Friday clearing containment lines around the fire.
"Yesterday we did fire line all day, too," he explained. "It's hard work, but got to get it done before the fire gets down here, before we lose any buildings."
Local residents have been assisting each other as the flames neared homes and other structures.
Officials said that so far, no homes have been lost to the fire and no injured have been reported.
The cause of the fire continues to be under investigation, but it started along Highway 141.
According to the Forest Service, it could have been something as simple as chains from a truck hitting the dry brush along the roadside.
Smoke in Portland area
Portland Fire and Rescue officials said they've been receiving calls from people concerned about the smoke.
They offered these tips for people concerned about the smoke:
- If you smell smoke and/or are beginning to experience symptoms, consider temporarily locating to another area as long as it is safe for you to do so.
- Seek out locations where air is filtered. For example, heading to the local mall, movie theater or recreation center can provide some temporary relief. Local health officials often can help locate places with better air quality during extended smoke episodes.
- Close windows and doors and stay indoors. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.
- Only if they are filtered, run the air conditioning, the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off) or your evaporative cooler. Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.
- If you have any HEPA room air filtration units, use them.
- In smoky air, try to reduce your physical activity level. Avoid exercise or other strenuous activities in heavy smoke. If smoke is simply unpleasant or mildly irritating, changing the timing of a few activities may be all that is necessary.
- If you are having difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1.
Watch a time-lapse of the fire from about 3 p.m. to dark Wednesday shot by Crispin Young.