Air resources were again used on Monday to slow the spread of spot fires in the area east of the main Fir Mountain Fire southeast of Hood River along the Hood River/Wasco county line while winds and humidity challenged firefighters on the ground. Wind blowing embers outside the fireline ignite dry fuels and kept crews and equipment busy. Oregon Department of Forestry spokesperson Christie Shaw said fire operations worked with the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office to determine the need for a Level 3 evacuation for three residences on Godberson Road…but added it is not due to fire growth. A Level 1 “be ready” evacuation advisory was issued for other residences on the eastern flank of the fire…from 3475 Mosier Creek Road to 3950 Mosier Creek Road, and to one mile south of 8020 Ketchum Road to 2000 Ketchum Road. Total fire size is now estimated to be 200 acres and five percent contained. Spot fires between the main fire and Godberson Road range in size from a quarter-acre to nearly ten. Crews were successful in minimizing growth of the spotfires using heavy equipment and hand crews in coordination with aerial support. Hoselays were constructed to disburse water throughout the fire area for mop-up and to extinguish hot spots and fire outside the fire line. Heavy fuels are hampering efforts to extinguish the fire, secure the line, and mop-up the interior. The fire that was reported late Saturday night and its cause remains under investigation.
There will not be a traditional Hood River Valley Harvest Festival this year. Hood River County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kate Schroeder said on Mid-Columbia Today Monday morning the Chamber board decided it made the most sense to cancel the event. Schroeder said they thought about not having the usual two large tents on the waterfront and having an outdoor farmers’ market, but recent events made them decide against it. Schroeder says they are working with Visit Hood River on ideas to drive tourists to individual farm stands during the harvest season.
As area schools prepare for opening classes this fall online rather than in buildings, part of what schools will be doing is assisting families to help their students stay on track academically. Hood River County School District Superintendent Rich Polkinghorn says what takes place this fall will be more structured than what occurred during the spring with more requirements and expectations of students and staff. Polkinghorn said establishing a dedicated space in the house can be an important part of setting an environment for learning.
An 86-year-old Hood River woman was found healthy and in good condition early this morning after becoming lost while picking huckleberries in the Red Hill area of the Mt. Hood National Forest. According to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, Elva Lane was located by a member of Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue just after 5 a.m. on a dirt road about three miles from the initial search location. Lane said after becoming separated from her husband on Thursday afternoon she ended up down a steep ridge, hiked through the night, and found the road early this morning. She was reunited with her husband shorty after she was found. It culminated a busy 24 hours for the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. Earlier in the day they helped a 53-year-old Illinois man hiking the Timberline Trail dealing with heat exhaustion to reach Laurance Lake safely, and a 23-year-old Vancouver man on the same trail dealing with complications from asthma was assisted by the Hood River Crag Rats and a fellow hiker who is an emergency room nurse to get back to the trailhead in good condition.
The Hood River County Health Department announced Friday that a fruit packing facility in the Mid-Valley has been identified as having a cluster of COVID-19 cases. According to the Department, the cluster has occurred at Webster Orchards/The Fruit Company, even though the exact source has not been identified, meaning health officials cannot trace anyone to another case, indicating that it was community acquired. Whenever more than one COVID-19 case is linked to an agricultural or long term care facility it is classified as an “outbreak” by the Oregon Health Authority. Once five or more cases ae identified, the OHA releases the information in its weekly report. The department says the company is providing housing, food, and support for their employees, adding officials feel the outbreak is well controlled at this time, noting the company had put safeguards in place for their employees before the outbreak started.
North Wasco County School District 21 announced that it will use a comprehensive distance learning format to start the upcoming school year. In a letter to parents, D-21 interim superintendent Theresa Peters said they plan to use the online format through October 16. Health metrics will determine whether they can go to a hybrid format after that. Peters said they will be following the guidelines from the Oregon Department of Education for Comprehensive Distance Learning which is more rigorous than what was put together last spring. She says it will provide “a more engaging, robust learning experience for students.” Peters added building blueprints for when the district can bring students back into classrooms will be posted on the D-21 website next week, along with a way for parents to provide feedback.
The Dufur School District is getting ready to start classes in September online after the state announced its metrics for reopening school. Superintendent Jack Henderson said they had been working on a number of different scenarios to start the school year, adding one thing the Dufur district will be trying to do is educate parents on how to help oversee their child’s learning and providing guidance on how long students should be engaged in educational activities. He said all Dufur students will be registered in an online platform to help teachers guide students and hopefully help families as well. Henderson adds the district will also narrow down the means by which teachers communicate with students compared to in the spring to a single platform. The district is planning Zoom meetings to help parents understand their plans, with the first set for this Thursday at 7 p.m. The link for that meeting will be sent out on Monday.
Klickitat County continues to wait for the opportunity to resubmit its application to the state of Washington for Phase 3 of reopening. The County had submitted its application on July 1, but Governor Jay Inslee put a pause on all phase advancements the next day, and County Public Health Director Erinn Quinn expects it will be at least a couple of more weeks before they can resubmit. Quinn said as of this morning there are currently sixteen active COVID-19 cases in Klickitat County. She believes County residents are doing a good job with helping to curb COVID-19 transmission, but did say social gatherings remain a concern.
The Dalles Public Works Department will be painting the center and side lines on all streets throughout the community Monday through Thursday beginning at 6:00 a.m. each day. Motorists are asked to watch for the crews and avoid driving on the wet paint. The paint truck will be preceded and followed by warning vehicles, with signs calling attention to the wet paint. The trucks will be spaced according to the necessary drying time of the paint. Attempting to pass or drive between the trucks will result in a messy striping job and paint damage to the motorist’s vehicle that is difficult to remove. Proceed with caution around work areas and observe all temporary traffic control devices.
23 western pond turtles reared at the Oregon Zoo conservation lab for nine-months were returned to the wild in the Columbia River Gorge on Thursday. As part of the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, conservation scientists “head-start” newly hatched turtles gathered from wild sites, nurturing them at the zoo for up to a year. In addition to the 20 wild hatchlings brought to the lab last fall, this year’s release includes three turtles that hatched at the zoo. Keepers prepare the turtles for life outdoors by giving them plenty of time outside to acclimate to changing temperatures. Once the turtles reach about 50 grams, they’re taken to ponds in the Gorge, where a team of conservationists returns them to their natural habitat and monitors them for safety. In one study, scientists estimated that 95% of the turtles released back to sites in the Gorge survive annually. The western pond turtle, once common from Baja California to the Puget Sound, is listed as an endangered species in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon. The Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project is a collaborative effort by the Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bonneville Power Administration, USDA Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and other partners.
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