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News / Northwest

Mount Hood fire doubles in size

Elite crew called in to lead the firefighting operation

The Columbian
Published: September 5, 2011, 12:00am

Portland — An elite firefighting team was summoned to take over command Monday of the Dollar Lake fire, considered by fire officials as the priority among four continuing large fires in Oregon.

A Type 1 National Interagency Incident Management Team, one of 17 in the nation, will lead efforts to control the fire that had nearly doubled since Saturday, scorching 4,000 acres in Hood River County.

Fire officials had been anticipating weather that could make conditions worse for crews before they get better. Officials said a “thermal trough” was approaching the area.

“The combination of dry fuels, and dry unstable air can cause the fire to develop a vertical column and generate its own winds,” said Tom Jones, a fire behavior analyst, in a statement.

“Plume-dominated fires are rare but are extremely hazardous because they can produce erratic, down-draft winds that can push fire in many different directions,” he said.

Type 1 teams typically include firefighters with the most experience that handle fires with the most complicated logistics and operations, said Paul Norman, spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

“We’re still expecting fairly active fires,” Norman said. He said winds had pushed the fire three miles to the west, forcing crews to pull back to safety.

Led by Incident Commander Jeff Pendleton, firefighters will work to strengthen the control line in the northeastern section, near private lands close to Parkdale.

While not posing an imminent danger, it was in the proximity of the Bull Run watershed, which provides Portland’s drinking water, as well as near to power lines, said Norman.

Nearly 500 firefighters, along with air support, were attempting to stop it from spreading to private and county lands nearby.

The expansion caused more closures in the area, including forest roads, trails and the following campgrounds: Lost Lake, Wahtum Lake, McNeil, Riley Horse Camp, Lost Creek, Kinnikinnick, TillyJane, and Cloud Cap.

Elsewhere, a 1,500-acre fire west of Sisters being fueled by the warm weather doubled in size from Friday, Norman said. Crews evacuated nearby campgrounds on Saturday.

The blazes had cast a smoky haze over Portland and southwest Washington, obscuring the Cascade Mountains on Saturday. Ash from the Mount Hood fire fell on Estacada.

The Associated Press contributed to this report