THE DALLES, Ore. — A brush fire broke out near Interstate 84 in The Dalles on Thursday morning, but firefighters later managed to knock down and begin mop-up of the fire area.
Video shot by KGW reporters around 11:30 a.m. showed a plume of smoke billowing from a site to the south of the freeway, with emergency vehicles blocking Exit 87 to U.S. Highway 197.
Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue Chief Robert Palmer said the first fire calls came in at 9:47 a.m.
"In this case, if it would have jumped Highway 197 behind us, then it would’ve had an opportunity to grow much larger," he said Thursday afternoon.
By shortly after 4 p.m., firefighters had knocked down flames and were working to mop the area up. The fire was estimated at just under 10 acres. It destroyed a homeless camp by the railroad tracks, but did not appear to have reached any structures.
Chief Palmer said that at this time, investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but there were no reported injuries or fatalities.
"It's difficult to do nighttime operations, so it’s very possible that we will put a fire watch on it tonight and then come back in the next day and do some more extensive mop-up to finalize and contain it."
Highway 197 and an eastbound I-84 off-ramp were closed for a few hours as crews fought the fire, but both have since reopened.
The Wasco County Sheriff's Office initially issued a Level 2 "Get Set" evacuation warning for the Columbia Heights area, but later reduced it to a Level 1 "Be Ready" notice. No new evacuations were issued on the fire by Thursday afternoon.
Jessi Byram told KGW that officials drove up and down her road, calling for people to evacuate over a loudspeaker. She stayed for several hours at her dad's place before she returned home.
"I was shaking when I first heard them," she said. "I saw the smoke on my way home and I kept looking ... and then I noticed it was right by the overpass. I kind of blew past a couple fire trucks and got home, got my cats loaded and my dogs and took off."
Officials at the Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue Department said Thursday morning the fire in The Dalles was at the site of a treatment plant for manufacturing railroad ties operated by AmeriTies, but an AmeriTies spokesperson told KGW it was a brush fire to the east of the facility and not on the property.
The fire was entirely separate from the Miller Road wildfire burning near Maupin, about 30 miles south of The Dalles, which began on Tuesday and has since grown to more than 10,000 acres, an area roughly the size of the city of Corvallis, and prompted evacuation orders.