By Jim Ryan and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

The Oregonian

Campfires banned at all state parks

Oregon has banned campfires and open flames at all state parks following Gov. Kate Brown’s wildfire emergency declaration this week. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department announced the ban Thursday. It applies to wood, charcoal and other open flame sources that are not controlled with a valve.

The department says liquid fuel stoves that can be turned off with a valve are allowed.

Officials expect the ban to last a week, but the period will depend on weather, conditions and input from fire officials.

— The Associated Press

The Substation Fire grew to more than 70,000 acres Friday across Wasco and Sherman counties. But evacuation levels were reduced Friday evening, and the worst of the deadly wildfire had passed, unless the blaze flares up or a new fire starts, an official said.

While the amount of burned acreage jumped, stretching from the edge of The Dalles to just north of Grass Valley, fire officials said the blaze is now 15 percent contained — an encouraging sign, they said.

Kale Casey, fire spokesman, said there’s still a lot of work to be done before the fire is buttoned up but noted that conditions are improving because containment and retardant lines have held, nearly 300 people were working the blaze, and locals were doing their part to help.

High temperatures are expected to continue into the weekend, with a high of 96 expected Sunday. Winds, however, are expected to be moderate, between 6 and 16 mph with gusts up to 23 mph Saturday, becoming calm Sunday.

Fire officials planned to livestream an update at 6 a.m. at and also scheduled an 8 a.m. community meeting at Sherman County High School, according to a Facebook post.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office has opened an unspecified criminal investigation into the blaze, which was first spotted Tuesday afternoon south of the Celilo Converter Station near The Dalles.

One person died as a result of the fire, which had been designated the nation’s No.1 fire priority.

Officials lowered evacuation levels Friday — from level 3, get out, to level 2, be ready to go, — in Moro, Grass Valley and Kent. Wasco County officials also said the county was reducing its evacuation level similarly.

No area highways were closed Friday evening, according to TripCheck.

Several fire engines and crews from Central Oregon traveled to the Substation Fire this week to assist on the fire. Bend, Redmond, Sisters and Sunriver fire departments each sent at least one engine and a two- or three-person crew, said Capt. Ron Hawkins of Redmond Fire and Rescue. Their priority was expected to be to protect structures from burning, by fighting the fire itself, or by clearing flammable material from around buildings and making homes as fire-resistant as possible, sometimes using fire hoses to redirect approaching fire away from buildings, Hawkins said.

Destroyed structures could be seen on half a dozen properties in the area near 15 Mile Creek and the burned-down Charles E. Emerson farmhouse Wednesday afternoon. There’s still no official word on the number of structures affected.

The man who died, 64-year-old John Ruby, was found in a burned tractor about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office said. It appears the longtime Wasco County resident was trying to protect his neighbor’s property by making a fire line, according to the agency.

— Information from The Bulletin is contained in this report.