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Fast-Moving Blaze Sparks Panic At Oregon Resort

June 24, 1985

PORTLAND, Ore (AP) _ A fast-burning grass fire raced up to a popular Central Oregon resort where guests frolicked in the pool, starting a panic that sent people fleeing to their cars and seriously injuring five men who fought the blaze.

Helicopters ferried the injured to Portland’s Emanuel Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Lori Callister.

She said they were four employees of the Kah-Nee-Tah resort on the Warm Springs Indian reservation, 60 miles south of The Dalles, and one guest, who reported that the fire swept over them as they fought it Sunday.

The injured included guest Pat Ritz, 43, whose wife, Trudy said that when the fire approached, ″Everyone panicked and ran for their cars, with a look of terror in all of their eyes, honking their horns, trying to get out on the only road from the resort.″

Ritz was listed in serious condition with burns over 40 percent of his body.

Before the fire, Mrs. Ritz said, ″We arrived and we were in the hotel lobby and there were people in the swimming pool and everything was calm.

″Then we looked out and saw a fire on a ridge of the hill close to the hotel but nobody was too concerned.

″My husband said, ‘I’ll see if I can help.’ All of a sudden, real fast, there was smoke and wind, incredible wind.″

Firefighters contained the 800-acre fire Sunday several hours after it broke out, said Bureau of Indian Affairs reservation superintendent Bernard Topash. No structures were damaged although the fire burned to within several feet of the lodge.

Meanwhile, a 13,500-acre range fire 25 miles north of Lakeview in southeastern Oregon remained out of control Sunday but firefighters hoped to contain it today, said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Rick Breckel.

In Utah, a forest fire that already had destroyed one summer home and blackened at least 3,000 acres cooled during the night, but crews feared warm, dry southwesterly winds and thunderstorms would fan the fire again today.

There was no estimate when firefighters could contain the fire, which was started by lightning Thursday, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Terry Hopson said today.

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