The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Fire in the Night


Contributed by Darlisa Black

The Horsethief Butte fire blazes in the night sky near Wishram Sunday

Just when it seemed time to feel comfortable again-surely the fire season's over by now-up came the Horsethief Butte Fire.

Thankfully, it was handled quickly and with extraordinary expertise by firefighters. But for a time it displaced most of Wishram, sending residents to the Father's House church in Goldendale. And it burned up some 13 miles of grassland and some outbuildings.

It started around noon on Sunday, Sept. 13, as a fast-moving grass fire reported in the area of Oak Creek Road. The fire quickly grew, spreading east towards Wishram. By 5 p.m. the fire had burned approximately 4,000 acres. At approximately 3:15 p.m. the fire was approved for State Mobilization, making additional resources available. The Klickitat County Sheriff's Office issued Level 3 evacuation notices for Wishram and Wishram Heights. Highway 14 was closed between Highways 197 and 97.

As of 7 a.m. Monday, the South East Washington Management Team had taken command of the fire and was working with resources from Washington State Mobilization, Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service, and local fire districts.

By late Monday, the fire was mostly contained, with no damage to residences. The plan for the day was to establish control lines, conduct mop-up activities, and provide an accurate fire perimeter to determine the jurisdictions affected by the fire. Evacuations were downgraded to Level 1. Highway 14 was reopened. The cause of the fire was still being determined.

A Red Cross shelter had been set up at the Father's House. Local residents and a restaurant immediately began chipping in to help. Jessica Bieker, Pam Gasca, Marsha Morgan, and several tenants from Simcoe Manor apartments spent about five hours helping at Father's House before the Red Cross got there and welcomed displaced people. When the Red Cross arrived, they ordered 30 meals from Sodbusters, and Gasca and Bieker drove to pick them up. Sodbusters closed the place just to get the meals ready.

By Monday night the shelter was no longer needed as Wishram citizens returned to their homes.

Meanwhile the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Sunday authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the fire.

FEMA Region X Regional Administrator Kenneth D. Murphy said he determined that the fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. Murphy approved the state of Washington's request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) 10:42 p.m. Sunday. There have been 12 FMAGs approved in Washington since June 2015.

Contributed by Gina McCabe

Smoke on the water as seen from Oregon

At the time of the request, the fire was threatening over 125 primary homes in and around the communities of Dallesport and Wishram. The fire was also threatening public utility transmission and distribution lines along state Route 14, community buildings, irrigation infrastructure, recreational resources at two state parks, and environmental resources of the Columbia River.

The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state of Washington's eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. These grants provide reimbursement for firefighting and life-saving efforts. They do not provide assistance to individuals, homeowners or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.


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