I was driving down to the Columbia River at about 4:00 pm on Saturday, July 28, 2001 when I noticed a plume of smoke to the northeast of me past the Umatilla Golf Course. I turned east from 395 onto 730 and saw that the plume of smoke was really close. It was a very strong fire. I went into the McNary Market to buy a drink and everybody was very upset in the store. The Hat Rock area was being evacuated. McNary Beach had been closed and the police were preparing to close Highway 730.
There were reports of kids and elderly at the Hat Rock Park and residential area who could not be located.
I left the store and went north to the golf course and the view point just north of the course. However, baracades were up and the string of cars that I was a part of turned around and went back to the entrance of McNary (East Umatilla). I stopped near Russ's Place Tavern and looked towards the 18th fairway of Umatilla Golf Course. I could see flames shooting up above the tree line and at least as high as the Fairway South Apartments. It was a very intense fire. I have been carrying a camcorder around this summer shooting landscapes and activities to practice digital video. So I went back to the car and grabbed the camera and tripod. I shot some video then headed back to the car.
From there I went west to the McNary Dam viewpoint. It appeared that the major fire was around a large wood and pulp pile but it had progressed way past that area and was past McNary Beach. The fire line was miles long by this point.
While I was doing all this driving and shooting video I turned on the "local" AM radio station KOHU hoping that they would have some reports about the fire. But just like their sorry assed coverage of any major emergency in the Hermiston area during the last 5 or 6 years they were busy playing country music. They never cut in during the three hours I listened. In fact they even ran an ad saying that 'if you see news happen call 567-6500 and let us know.' Well, they sure as heck didn't see this major fire as anything to interupt their satellite fed country music format. I bet that there wasn't even anybody minding the radio station. If there was someone there they must have been busy making sure the advertisements got played.
Sunday morning, July 29, 2001 and the fires are still burning just east of Umatilla. Support for battling the fires have included departments from Ione, Canby, Gresham and Portland.
|Looking down the 18th fairway at the Umatilla Golf Course towards the fire at what has been reported to be the Boise Cascade wood chip plant.||Looking east from the McNary Dam viewpoint just north of the Highway 395 and 730 intersection.|
|Looking north from the Hermiston Butte towards the series of fires along the Columbia River.||Extreme telephoto video shot from the Hermiston Butte of the main fire along the Columbia River just east of Umatilla.|