Government Island fire brought under control (with video)

Mop-up work underway

By Emily Gillespie and Tom Vogt

Published:

Updated: August 19, 2013, 8:13 PM

 

Government Island fire - readers' photos

Vancouver firefighters were among the 80 responders who battled a spectacular three-alarm wildland fire Monday afternoon on Government Island.

The blaze was brought under control at 5:46 p.m., Portland Fire & Rescue said. Mop-up continued into the evening and crews were working to insure the fire did not rekindle.

Investigators were combing through ashes, hoping to determine a cause.

There were no injuries.

Thousands could see the plumes of smoke from the fire and drivers on Interstate 205 northbound were delayed.

The Glenn Jackson Bridge on Interstate 205 goes over the western portion of the island in the Columbia River. There is no access from the freeway to the 1,600-acre island, so fighting the wildland blaze meant using boats to shuttle equipment and personnel.

Traffic in the right northbound lane was closed at 1:28 p.m. to help the firefighting effort. The Oregon Department of Transportation advised travelers that they should expect the lane to remain closed through the Monday afternoon commute.

Portland Fire & Rescue crews were dispatched at 1:20 p.m. after people called 911 about the fire that was growing and possibly extending to bushes and trees in the area.

About two dozen people on the popular recreational area were evacuated.

At 2:12 p.m., with the fire moving southward on the island and burning in the tree canopy, Portland Fire & Rescue called for a second-alarm response, which included requesting crews from Gresham and Vancouver fire departments. A Vancouver Fire Department rescue boat was dispatched to assist with the response.

Once on the island, firefighters dug fire lines and stretched wild-land hose lines to extinguish the fast-moving fire. At 3:09 p.m. a third alarm was called.

There were about 80 personnel working on the fire at about 4:30 p.m., according to a news release from Portland Fire & Rescue. At that point, the fire covered about 20 acres.

The right northbound lane of I-205 was closed — leaving three northbound lanes still open for traffic — so firefighting officials could use the space along the bridge as a vantage point for staging their forces, said Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesman.

The right northbound lane was reopened to traffic by about 6 p.m.

The heavy smoke hampered motorists’ visibility for a while, Hamilton said. The smoke did not affect air traffic at Portland International Airport.

View a video of the fire on The Columbian's YouTube channel.