National News

Deadly substation fire remains at more than 50K acres, cause under investigation

Posted July 19, 2018 8:51 p.m. EDT

— Crews responding to the wildfire burning near The Dalles are expecting a busy day with similar weather conditions as Wednesday as they try to get a handle on the growing fire.

Officials provided an update on the Substation Fire Thursday morning and said the fire remained at more than 50,000 acres, but they expect it to increase by the evening.

The fire, which began Tuesday night, is burning primarily in wheat fields and scrub grass. Those wheat fields are the livelihood for a lot of farmers in the area. AIR 12 has seen a farmers out on tractors trying create lines around the fire.

One person has died as a result of the fire, according to the Wasco County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office identified the victim as 64-year-old John Ruby, a longtime resident of Wasco County. An investigation revealed that Ruby was creating a fire line to protect his neighbor's property and died from exposure to the fire.

The blaze has burned through several buildings. The exact number of buildings destroyed is unknown at this time.

Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday evening. This declaration makes resources available from around the state, and from outside of Oregon if necessary.

The Office of State Fire Marshal's Red Incident Management Team, four structural task forces and two strike teams from Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Yamhill, Marion and central Oregon counties arrived early Wednesday and began working to protect structures.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 178 firefighters from 32 agencies across Oregon were focused on protecting structures in the line of the fire.

Aircraft was also being utilized to fight the fire, including two 750-gallon capacity "Fire Bosses"; two "Super Scooper" air tankers, which are capable of scooping 12,000 gallons of water from the Columbia River to drop on the fire; and a Very Large Air Tanker, which can carry 12,000 gallons of water.

Evacuations were ordered Tuesday as the fire began to grow in Wasco County, with additional evacuations in place Wednesday for Sherman County.

Officials said Thursday morning that there have been no change in evacuation levels, but that may change later in the day.