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Wildfire closes Harris Park, forces short-term evacuations

About 100 homes evacuated near Milton-Freewater, people allowed to return later in the day
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on August 1, 2018 1:40PM

Last changed on August 1, 2018 11:15PM

A helicopter drops water from a bucket while fighting a brush fire in the South Fork Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday east of Milton-Freewater.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

A helicopter drops water from a bucket while fighting a brush fire in the South Fork Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday east of Milton-Freewater.

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A road block is set up at the intersection of Walla Walla River Road and Lincton Mountain Road in response to a wildfire burning in the South Fork Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

A road block is set up at the intersection of Walla Walla River Road and Lincton Mountain Road in response to a wildfire burning in the South Fork Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday in Pendleton.

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A Milton-Freewater Rural Fire vehicle drives down Lincton Mountian Road while responding to a wildfire in the South Fork Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

A Milton-Freewater Rural Fire vehicle drives down Lincton Mountian Road while responding to a wildfire in the South Fork Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday in Pendleton.

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Smoke from a wildfire billows out of the Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday in the Foothills of the Blue Mountains east of Milton-Freewater.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Smoke from a wildfire billows out of the Walla Walla River Valley on Wednesday in the Foothills of the Blue Mountains east of Milton-Freewater.

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A wildfire near Milton-Freewater forced the evacuation of a county park and about 100 homes on Wednesday.

According to Rick Saager, chief of the Milton-Freewater Rural Fire Protection District, the fire started Wednesday morning off Lincton Mountain Road and spread toward the Walla Walla River. It was sparked by a combine, Saager said.

Crews evacuated Harris Park, a Umatilla County campground located about 15 miles outside of Milton-Freewater on the south fork of the Walla Walla River, as well as other homes in the area. Umatilla County Undersheriff Jim Littlefield said homes in the Walla Walla Road and Lincton Mountain Road areas were evacuated, but he didn’t know how many people were ultimately forced to leave.

Around 6 p.m., Umatilla County Sheriff’s Lt. Sterrin Holcomb said fire crews were still fighting hot spots but some fire agencies were already being released from the scene.

Although access to the south fork of the Walla Walla River remained closed, Holcomb said no structures were being threatened by the fire and residents were allowed to take alternate routes to return home.

According to Holcomb, the sheriff’s office evacuated about 100 homes due to the fire. As of 3:45 p.m., the Oregon Department of Forestry estimated the fire to span 200-300 acres.

Along with the Milton-Freewater crew, personnel from East Umatilla County Rural Fire Protection, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Oregon Department of Forestry are on scene. Two helicopters could be seen dumping water on the fire from above and responders later reported a third helicopter joined them.

Cindy Brumbach was among a group of residents who were watching the fire burn through a draw from a safe distance.

Brumbach said she received a call at her Lefore Road home from authorities asking everyone who lived from 81000 Walla Walla Road to Harris Park to leave their homes.

While Brumbach’s home was far enough from the fire that her home wasn’t in danger, and the message simply told those who didn’t live in the evacuation to stay prepared.







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