Governor Invokes Conflagration Act, More Help on The Way to John Day
Incident: G C Complex Wildfire
Governor invokes Conflagration Act, more help on the way to John Day
By Scotta Callister Blue Mountain Eagle | Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013 9:41 am
JOHN DAY – More fire crews and equipment are rolling into John Day after the governor’s office invoked the state Conflagration Act Thursday night.
John Day Fire Chief Ron Smith requested the conflagration status as the Grouse Mountain Fire blew up in late afternoon, with winds pushing the blaze over the hills toward town.
At the height of the fire, the blaze threatened the Valley View Retirement Center, the Charolais Heights neighborhood, and ranches and home along the north edge of town.
Smith said the Conflagration Act comes into play when a fire threatens to overwhelm local resources, allowing other departments to send help. The situation must meet certain criteria, and he worked with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office to make the case for invocation. Gov. John Kitzhaber signed off on it Thursday evening.
Smith said the need was clear despite “really heroic” efforts by the local fire departments.
“I had resources from every department in the county,” he said. That included crews and equipment from John Day, Prairie City, Mt. Vernon, Dayville, Long Creek, Monument. All the local police agencies also worked on the coordinated response, and the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service launched a prolonged air assault on the blaze.
“We’ve all been going three days, nonstop,” he said.
The shift in winds Thursday posed the possibility that the Grouse Mountain Fire might win Thursday’s battle and sweep into town.
The blaze grew from 2,000 acres Thursday morning to an estimated 11,500 acres Friday.
Smith said the situation could be even worse if it were not for the rain that fell during thunderstorm activity last night.
“The rain was a blessing,” he said.
The conflagration declaration cleared the way for more resources. A task force from Baker and Union counties rolled into John Day about 2:30 a.m. Friday, and an overhead team was en route to help manage the structure protection response.
Smith said a crew and equipment from Hood and Wasco counties, a joint task force, are expected to show up this morning, as is another structure fire task force from Yamhill County.
“I think we’ll have a good handle on this thing today, at least from the perspective of the town risk,” he said.