Firefighters from the Clackamas County Task Force arrived in Rowena, just west of The Dalles, Aug. 6 with the wildfire completely out of control. By the time they left on Aug. 9, the fire was 65 percent contained.
They worked throughout the night to achieve goals that included providing evacuation instructions to affected people in a timely manner in conjunction with Wasco County Sheriff's Office. Through triage and preparation of homes in the immediate vicinity of Rowena Fire, they managed to keep the blaze south of Interstate 84, east of Canyon Way, north of Ortley, and west of Hidden Valley. The 3,680-acre fire that started Aug. 5 caused only an estimated $4.3 million in damage; although hundreds of homes were evacuated, only one burned. If you drive through the area, it's remarkable to see how many homes remain standing amid a circle of charred earth.
Clackamas County firefighters are active participants in the Oregon State Fire Service Mobilization Plan that is designed to respond to wildfires in Oregon and Washington. The governor activated the Conflagration Act for the Rowena Fire to help protect nearby homes.
When the Clackamas County Fire Defense Board was notified of the need for a task force from Clackamas County to assist with protecting these homes, they joined some other counties that deployed resources to assist with fire suppression. Clackamas Countys task force consisted of a task-force leader from Clackamas Fire District No. 1, a water tender from Estacada Fire District, and Type 1 engine companies from Clackamas Fire, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, the Canby Fire District and the Gladstone Fire Department. Gladstones crew consisted of Battalion Chief Jeff Smith, who is Gladstones volunteer coordinator, (21 years of service), Lt. Kirk Stempel (nine years of service), Lt. Jeramy Brenner (five years of service) and Apparatus Operator Zak DeLair (three years of service).
"Gladstone Fire is proud to serve and be a part of the Clackamas County Task Force and will continue our commitment to protect lives and property for our community and the rest of the state," Smith said.
Other objectives they achieved included minimizing cost and acres/structures burned by using direct suppression strategies and tactics when possible. They maintained firefighter and public safety by assuring adequate briefings and implementing standard mitigation measures.
Kevin Gorman, executive director of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, offered "huge kudos" to the firefighters this week and said the damage could have been much worse if the response hadn't been so effective or if the area were more developed.
We have gone hard at this fire for all the right reasons, said Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Commander John Buckman.