The containment figure for the Cougar Creek Fire inched up to 20 percent with the acreage burned up to 40,200 acres. Difficult terrain, variable winds and inaccessibility continue to pose a challenge to firefighters. A burnout operation north along the 255 road continues, with the intent to create a fuel break to the north of the original Cougar Creek Fire along Potato Hill Road. Spot fires continue to slow efforts, but all have been contained. The burning operation continues to produce large amounts of smoke and will be visible from surrounding areas. Favorable southwest winds are expected to assist crews today and tomorrow, and a possible wetting rain is in the forecast for the weekend.
Klickitat County Health Department officials are warning that air quality in smoke impacted regions of Glenwood, Trout Lake, the greater Goldendale area, and Centerville may be hazardous. Air quality is generally at the poorest in the mornings and evenings, as smoke comes in from the Cougar Creek Fire. Smoke advisories provide generalized regional information only, and air quality conditions may change rapidly and vary greatly throughout the county. Klickitat County Health officials advise that in smoky conditions everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities, and keep windows closed if it is not too hot. Run air conditioners on re-circulate and close the outside air intake, and use indoor air cleaners with HEPA filters, if available. If you must be outdoors in heavy smoke, wear an N-95 respirator mask. People with chronic diseases should check with their health care provider before wearing a mask. People without air conditioning need to take precautions against heat stress and should consider temporarily relocating to an area with better air quality. Adverse symptoms may include dizziness, headache, difficulty breathing, coughing, excessive phlegm, and nausea. For specific medical advice please contact your physician.
The crack sealing project on streets around The Dalles will continue next week. Starting Monday work will take place on West 8th, West 9th, West 11th and West 14th, East 9th and East 16th, Webber, Union, Court, Washington, Oregon and Quinton Streets. Much of the work will be in residential areas, and residents in those locations area asked to remove all vehicles from the street between seven in the morning and five in the afternoon to allow the workers access to the entire street width. Flaggers will be in place, and motorists are asked to be alert for traffic control changes. Those with questions can call Pavement Protectors at 541-480-0168.
The annual Hood to Coast Relay race will take place Friday and Saturday, and that means 17,000 runners and walkers expected to travel along several Oregon highways. The route will take race participants from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside. Travelers need to watch for runners and walkers, as well as approximately 3,000 support vehicles involved in the event, which begins Friday morning. The second leg of the relay will take runners through a construction site on Highway 26 west of Government Camp where ODOT is cutting back the steep slopes along the highway to reduce rockfall. Along nearly a two-mile stretch runners will run outside of a concrete barrier with a slightly narrower shoulder. The contractor will not work on the day runners are heading down the mountain. Drivers on Highway 26 are asked to use extra caution and be alert in this area. State and city police agencies along the relay route will have a visible patrol enforcement presence.
A search plane from the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday morning located the remains of a missing paddle boarder in the Columbia River. The Sheriff’s Offfice confirmed the body recovered from the river was that of 20-year-old Andres Pombo of Miami. Pombo went missing Friday afternoon. Witnesses indicated Pombo was last seen near the area of the river known as Swell City. His remains were recovered just down river from that point he was last seen, near mid-channel. Pombo was in the Hood River area for a paddle board race. He did not have a personal flotation device or tether on at the time of the incident. The Sheriff’s Office reminds Columbia River users that the current is stronger than most people believe and strong winds increase the danger to recreationalists, and urges everyone on the river to use a flotation device as required by law and other available safety equipment when using the river for recreation.
The hotter than normal conditions in the Gorge have accelerated the pear harvest in the Hood River Valley by about two to three weeks. Lower valley growers are already picking winter pears, and Bartlett harvest finished up in the Upper Valley last week and the winter varieties about ready to be picked. Upper Valley orchardist Ron Rivers says in spite of the hard freeze in early winter and the heat of this summer, the fruit isn’t doing too badly, even though the size of the summer pear crop in the Northwest was down. If the larger winter pear crop follows the same pattern, then the overall crop will be smaller than usual. Rivers did say that pests have been a constant problem this summer because of the warmer than normal temperatures. He added most orchardists were able to get through the drought conditions this summer with enough water to maintain their crops.
The Dalles City Council will hold a worksession on Monday to discuss the wastewater treatment plant upgrade project. Phase 1A of the project, which involved a number of required upgrades to meet new federal regulations, is being wrapped up. But two more phases remain, and Mayor Steve Lawrence says the Council wants to review what aspects of those actually need to be done. City staff will give Councilors summaries of four different alternative concepts at the worksession. It will begin at 1 p.m. Monday in City Hall.
Burnout operations on the Cougar Creek Fire are continuing, progressing north to create solid containment lines on the northeastern flanks of the fire. In spite of very active fire behavior and short range spotting, there was minimal spread of the fire on Tuesday, which has burned 37,900 acres and is listed as 15 percent contained overall. Continued dry and unstable conditions with a slight chance of thunderstorms late Wednesday afternoon and evening are expected. Ground crews will be on the lookout for snags and wind shifts as the front moves in during the afternoon. Significant smoke in the vicinity of the fire and in adjacent areas is expected as burnout operations continue through the week. Burnouts and bucket drops along the southwestern flank of the fire above Trout Lake were continuing Wednesday.
Hood River City Councilors approved raising water, sewer, and stormwater rates and systems development charges. The rate increase average about six-point-six percent, and will result in a jump of around six dollars on the typical residential bill, and represent the first increases in about five years. Systems development charges on new development had not been increased since 2009, and will go up by 33 percent for sewer and 48 percent for water. City Manager Steve Wheeler says those increases are a function of dealing with growth. In other business, the Council approved ordinances accepting the buildable lands inventory, housing analysis, and population study discussed at a lengthy special session last week.
A delegation has returned from a visit to The Dalles’ Sister City, Miyoshi, Japan. The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence made the trip, and said he was very glad he did so, noting the graciousness of the people of Miyoshi. Lawrence says the two communities are very similar, each with a dam and a large river. One of the things he most noted was the value placed on education by the community. He added a new school he visited on the trip had been built in part from donated trees that were milled to help construct the building. He says the most important thing about the Sister City relationship are the cultural exchanges done by the students of both communities, with delegations going every year. A group of Miyoshi students is coming to The Dalles in October.