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.