Mid-Columbia Medical Center’s new President and Chief Executive Officer is getting settled in to the job. Dennis Knox has now been on the job for six weeks. Knox says in many of his previous jobs he has been brought in as a change agent, and he believes he has a similar role here. Appearing on Bicoastal Media’s Mid-Columbia Today program Thursday morning, he noted hospitals throughout the country are facing challenges. Knox also talked about cultural transformation, getting all stakeholders on board from employees to the community, noting that requires being honest, transparent, and making contact with the public.
Washington Department of Natural Resources crews will patrol the area of Monday’s Hartland Fire north of Dallesport for the next three days for any hotspots and smoke. High Prairie Fire Chief Tim Darland says the DNR strike team Wednesday re-gridded the burned area for any remaining hot spots, and two locations were identified and quickly mopped up. Later in the day DNR was comfortable with mop up efforts and made the decision to remove the hose lays that were initially placed to fight the fire. DNR will patrol the area for the next three days for any hot spots or smoke. If, after that time, no signs of fire are observed, DNR will call the fire “Out”. The Hartland Fire burned 14 acres.
There will be brief lane closures on the approaches to the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge on Friday from 5:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. for lane striping. Port crews will direct traffic and cones will delineate the travel lanes as the paint dries. Bridge users are cautioned to avoid the wet paint. Minimal delays are expected.
Fire activity has continued to decrease on the Dry Creek Fire north of BZ Corners, and the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office announced a change in evacuation advisories. All Level 2 Evacuation notices, have been reduced to Level 1, which advises people to be ready for a potential evacuation. All Level 1 Evacuation notices remain in effect. An update from fire officials today showed the amount of acreage burned remained at 322, with the containment level moved up to 28 percent. Crews are looking to establish a buffer of reduced fuels, either completely consumed or extinguished, within the containment lines to reasonably assure the fire will not escape. With a warming trend expected to continue through the weekend, fire managers are pressing to complete mop up and secure the lines before conditions become more unfavorable, but are also increasingly confident that they will meet that goal. There are 544 people assigned to the fire. Highway 141 reopened on Tuesday, with a pilot car escorting traffic through the fire area. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
A one acre fire on the cliffs west of Oneonta Gorge has the Historic Columbia River Highway through that area and surrounding trails closed until further notice. The fire started between Oneonta Trail and the cliff west of Oneonta Gorge late Tuesday evening. Forest Service firefighters are using helicopters bucket drops and a hose lay to suppress it. The Oregon Department of Transportation has closed the Historic Columbia River Highway between Multnomah Falls and Ainsworth State Park, but both of those facilities remain open. The Forest Service is closing hiking trails surrounding the fire, including Oneonta Trail #424, Horsetail Falls #438, and Gorge #400, making Horsetail Falls and Triple Falls inaccessible until further notice. A temporary flight restriction is in effect over the same area from ground surface to 2300 feet above ground level. The Forest Service is asking people to refrain from flying drones in that area.
The Hood River City Council received a report at their meeting this week on intersections in the community, and six were specifically noted for potential areas of improvement to address safety concerns. The intersections are at 12th and Belmont, 18th and Belmont, 13th and May, 20th and Cascade, 2nd and Oak, and 2nd and Cascade. Of those six, only 18th and Belmont is controlled exclusively by the City, with the other five involving state highways and belonging to the Oregon Department of Transportation. City Manager Steve Wheeler says they are taking steps to address some of these locations, an application for a Safe Routes For School program grant for the 18th and Belmont intersection, and they hope to have enough funds available to do improvements on 2nd and Oak. Wheeler added the City has $750,000 in funds from ODOT for a major realignment and signal light for the intersection of Rand and Cascade. The Council made addressing intersection safety as a goal earlier this year, and asked the staff to do more survey work with citizens to find other potential intersection problems.
Crews on the Dry Creek Fire have finished building line around the entire fire and held previously built line. Better mapping after an infrared heat sensing flight over the fire north of BZ Corners revised the amount of acreage burned to 322. The containment level has edged up to 15 percent, but full containment is not projected until July 24. Operations today will focus on securing fire line, cooling scattered heat spots, and mopping up from the outer edges of the fire into the interior. Thousands of feet of hose line will need to be plumbed to accomplish these tasks. Highway 141 has been reopened, with a pilot car in operation north of BZ Corners between mile marker fourteen and mile marker seventeen. The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office closure of recreational access to the White Salmon River from BZ Corner Boat Launch north to Warner Road and Sunnyside Road is still in effect. All evacuation notice levels are still in effect.
Klickitat County Fire District #3 says sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning someone broke into the district’s Cherry Lane Station 32 and stole a number of pieces of equipment. District Chief Wesley Long says firefighters arriving around 4:20 Tuesday morning at the unoccupied station to retrieve trucks needed for a small brush fire found all three vehicles had compartment doors open, equipment strewn about on the floor, and several items missing. Among the missing items are an MSA thermal imaging camera, a Physio Control automatic external defibrillator, a Dewault extrication sawzall, chargers, and blades, three portable flashlights, and a Stihl weed trimmer. Anyone who has information about vehicles or pedestrians in the vicinity of the Cherry Lane station late Monday night or early Tuesday morning is asked to contact the Klickitat County Sherriff’s Office immediately. Long notes Fire District #3 is a small agency with limited ability to fund critical equipment, facilities and other items, and having life-saving equipment stolen is difficult to comprehend and has created a huge financial burden for the district.
Hood River City Councilors approved a one percent construction excise tax similar to one approved by Hood River County one month ago. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill in 2016 that authorizes local governments to impose the tax to help support affordable housing. City Manager Steve Wheeler says the City ordinance has a different definition of affordable housing than the County adopted, with the City using a definition of housing affordable for those with 80 percent or less of median income rather than the County’s 120 percent. Annual estimated revenue from the construction excise tax in the City is $165,000, with about two-thirds of that to come from residential construction and the remainder from commercial and industrial developments.
The Dalles City Council approved an ordinance dealing with siting and odor control requirements for personal marijuana grow sites. The ordinance requires marijuana to be located in a place where the grow site cannot be seen by normal unaided vision from a public space or neighboring property, and bars odor associated with a marijuana grow from entering another property. The provisions had initially been part of a proposed ordinance that included new separation requirements for recreational retail marijuana outlets that the Council declined to adopt in May. Mayor Steve Lawrence says he does not know when the outlet spacing issue will come back before the Council.