Fire crews in the eastern part of the Gorge were kept busy over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, two air tankers helped quickly stop a fire southwest of Dufur The Oregon Department of Forestry says the Winslow Road Fire was stopped at 10 to 12 acres. The fire’s cause remains under investigation. Also on Saturday, a motor home was destroyed in a fire on East 17th Place in The Dalles. According to Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, the owner of the motor home had just started driving it when he heard a loud backfire, and a neighbor started yelling that the vehicle was on fire. A nearby home suffered some paint blistering. On Sunday, during the afternoon Dallesport fire crews extinguished a grass fire near the Highway 197 bridge. And in the evening Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue responded to a grass fire east of Oregon Cherry Growers caused by someone throwing fireworks into the dry grass.
From all accounts, it was a great weekend for the 50th Fort Dalles Pro Rodeo. Rodeo Association President Damon Hulit says ticket sales and other revenues were up for all three nights of the event. For the board that runs the rodeo, the attention now turns to the future. A long anticipated sale of the former Northwest Aluminum property the Milt Tumilson Arena sits on is rumored to be near closing, but Hulit says they have been through this before, and they have to wait to see what happens. Hulit adds the rodeo will start planning for next year as they usually do, noting they book acts in fall and usually wrap up getting the contract personnel in place in late November.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law the Oregon Promise bill that will pay tuition for qualifying Oregon high school graduates at any community college in the state. Brown signed the bill at a ceremony attended by a number of local education officials at Columbia Gorge Community College’s Indian Creek campus in Hood River. Hood River Representative Mark Johnson co-sponsored the bill with Senator Mark Hass and Representative Tobias Read, and said at the ceremony it is a game changer. Brown said the state can and will fulfill the dream of college education for families.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation District has awarded Hood River County a 470-thousand dollar grant to acquire 103 acres around Punchbowl Falls along the Hood River for development of a park. The property will be transferred from the Western Rivers Conservancy to the County by the end of the year, and park improvements including a new parking lot, informational signage, portable toilets, and an enhanced trail system should be finished by next summer. Western Rivers Conservancy had purchased the property over the last decade. The full budget for the project to create the Punchbowl Falls Nature Park is over $1.2 million including the grant, $575,000 in donations from the Conservancy for property acquisition, $146,000 from the County, $5,000 from the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, and in-kind matches from local volunteers. A kickoff fundraiser is planned for next Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in downtown Hood River.
Firefighters have begun to demobilize from the Mt. Adams Complex on the west flank of Mt. Adams in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. An infrared flight Thursday night showed no remaining heat in the Riley Fire in the complex, while a little heat was picked up on the northern perimeter of the Horseshoe Fire. A squad of firefighters Friday will continue to mop up in that specific area and verify the fire will not threaten to move into adjacent unburned forest. Crews are finalizing rehabilitation of the Riley Fire Friday. Both fires will be placed in patrol status Saturday, and two crews will monitor both fires daily to ensure the fires remain within the containment perimeter.
The Columbia River will close to sturgeon fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam until further notice under temporary rules adopted by the states of Oregon and Washington. The closure takes effect tomorrow and applies from Bonneville Dam to the Oregon/Washington border upstream of McNary Dam, including adjacent tributaries. All sturgeon angling, including catch-and-release, and retention is prohibited until further notice in this portion of the river. Fishery managers approved the closure after reviewing survey reports that showed increased sturgeon mortality as a result of the drought conditions in some of the mid-Columbia River reservoirs. Normal fishing hours remain in effect for the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers. Fish biologists are appealing to anglers to adopt additional voluntary measures that will help reduce stress on the region’s fish. Suggestions include fishing early in the day, moving to higher elevation lakes and ponds, shifting their focus from trout to warmwater species, using barbless hooks, and notifying authorities if they see mortalities or fish trapped in pools.
The search for a missing 63-year-old woman in the Reservoir Road area of The Dalles has been suspended, but the investigation of her disappearance is on-going. According to the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, they received numerous tips that Lucia Flores was seen in The Dalles, but she has not been located. Flores was reported as missing after her granddaughter said she did not return from a walk Monday afternoon. The Sheriff’s Office reports interviews of potential witnesses included one report that Flores was transported by vehicle to the Reservoir Road area, and confirmed she was last seen standing near the main gate entrance to Wicks Reservoir, where she did not appear to be in any kind of distress. Extensive searches of that area and several miles up and down Mill Creek have yielded nothing. Flores was last seen wearing dark pants, neon pink and black tennis shoes, and a pink shirt, and was carrying a purse and a grocery bag. If you have any information on the location or possible sightings of Flores please contact the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office at 541-296-5454.
Firefighters on the Mt. Adams Complex are gearing up for a “subsidence inversion” forecast for tonight. The inversion occurs when a widespread layer of air descends, usually at night, and compresses and heats due to increasing atmospheric pressure, leading to increased temperatures and decreased humidity that increases the potential for fire activity. Firefighters have been preparing for the inversion by steadily mopping up the perimeters of the Riley and Horseshoe fires and extinguishing hot spots. On the Riley Fire, firefighters continue to mop up and monitor activities with containment at 20 percent. The Horseshoe Fire is at 90 percent containment, and fire officials say it has been “put to bed” but they are monitoring the area closely.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Wednesday signed the 16 billion dollar transportation package that includes funding for a new overpass on Highway 14 in Bingen to the Port of Klickitat. The package allocates 22 million dollars for the project, and 14th District Representative Norm Johnson says it’s a necessary project for a growing Port of Klickitat. The package does include an 11-point-nine cent increase in the Washington gas tax over the next two years. Johnson says he doesn’t like to vote to increase taxes, but the state’s transportation needs are at point where they must be addressed.
Searchers are continuing Wednesday to look in the Reservoir Road area of The Dalles for a 63-year-old woman who apparently never returned home for from a long walk on Monday. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office says the granddaughter of Lucia Flores reported her missing, noting Flores sometimes goes on long walks but always returns home. Wasco County Road Department employees reported they observed Flores walking Mt. Hood Street and later in the 5800 block of Mill Creek Road. The Sheriff’s Office says additional information received Tuesday morning indicates Flores was seen walking southbound on Reservoir Road. Wasco and Klickitat County Search and Rescue members continue to search the Reservoir Road and Wicks Reservoir areas. Flores was last seen wearing dark pants, neon pink and black tennis shoes, and a pink shirt, and carrying a purse and a grocery bag. Anyone who may have seen Flores or have any other information is asked to call the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office at 541-296-5454. (Photo courtesy of the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office)