Pendleton, Ore. — Firefighters in Umatilla County, eastern Oregon, responded to two separate wildfires on Tuesday. The Mount Hebron fire and the Hat Rock fire posed threats to homes due to high winds and dry conditions. By Tuesday evening, significant progress had been made in containing the Mount Hebron fire, which was estimated at approximately 500 acres and 99% contained. However, the Hat Rock fire continued to grow, with Umatilla County Fire District #1 estimating its size at 10,000 acres, moving towards the Washington state line northeast of Hermiston.
At 7 p.m., the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office issued Level 3 evacuation orders for areas near the Hat Rock fire, including Juniper Canyon Road, Hartle Road, Wallula Road, and Hatchgrade Road. Deputies and search and rescue personnel went door-to-door, advising residents to leave the area. Although the evacuations were not mandatory, residents were instructed to do so for their own safety. Level 3 represents the highest evacuation warning level under Oregon’s three-tiered system.
Additionally, Level 2 evacuation warnings were issued for outlying areas south and east of the Hat Rock fire, north of Highway 37 and Pendleton Cold Springs Highway, west of Kings Corner Road, north of South Juniper Canyon Road, and west of Vansycle Road to the Washington state border. An emergency shelter was set up at 1705 East Airport Road in Hermiston.
While the Hat Rock fire remained a significant threat, the Mount Hebron fire was under control. No homes were damaged, but two vehicles and several outbuildings, including a hay shed, were burned. To prevent potential flare-ups, the Pendleton Fire Department stationed a fire tender and engine at the Mount Hebron fire overnight.
In response to the escalating situation, Governor Tina Kotek invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act, mobilizing six firefighter task forces from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office to Umatilla County. The governor’s action was prompted by the rapid growth of both fires, fueled by the dry and windy conditions. The Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System (OFMAS) was utilized to provide additional resources to support the local fire service agencies already on the scene.
The governor’s declaration of a conflagration is made when a fire poses a threat to life, safety, and property that surpasses the capabilities of local resources. This declaration enables statewide firefighting capabilities to be deployed in response to the situation.