Strong winds fan fire along Columbia River
A complex of wildfires near The Dalles along the Columbia River Gorge has forced the evacuation of 55 structures, authorities say.
The Associated Press
THE DALLES, Ore. — Strong winds in the Columbia River Gorge fanned an Oregon wildfire burning on 5,000 acres, forcing the evacuation of a number of homes Monday while other residents waited to hear if they would have to leave.
The Government Flats complex of fires was burning in hilly country near The Dalles, a Columbia River city that’s a favorite hangout for windsurfers. Officials said 55 structures were ordered evacuated. It wasn’t clear how many of those were homes.
The Columbia River Gorge is known for its strong winds, and Monday those winds fanned the Government Flats complex of fires.
Dozens of homeowners had been told to prepare for evacuation. By late Monday afternoon, authorities had ordered the evacuations.
“It’s a very flammable fuel right now, because it’s been dried with lack of moisture, and it’s also been heated from the heat coming up the slope,” said fire supervisor Kelly Niles, overlooking a charred grassy field. “This stuff, here it’s just ready to explode.”
The Government Flats fire complex was 12 percent contained, with full containment projected for Sept. 1. Two structures burned Sunday, officials said.
One resident, 74-year-old Jake Grossmiller, packed up photos, valuables and clothes in case the evacuation order came.
He set up a sprinkler in his front yard and kept an eye on the smoke rising behind the hills.
“I’m feeling pretty safe,” he said.
The Oregon wildfire is the latest to grab the attention of regional fire crews as hot, dry weather persists across the West.
In Idaho, authorities slowly were allowing evacuees to return to homes that days ago were deemed at risk from a big and erratic wildfire burning near the resort towns of Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley.
The Blaine County sheriff ended the mandatory evacuation order for up to 250 homes. Most of those residences are in subdivisions on the east side of the main highway connecting these communities and are farthest from the 160-square-mile Beaver Creek fire, ignited by lightning Aug. 7.
About 1,150 firefighters, including elite teams known as Hotshots, looked to reinforce fire lines with the help of 14 helicopters and likely other aircraft. The fire was about 8 percent contained.
In Northern California, erratic winds fanned a wildfire that threatened more than 300 structures in rural Butte County. But the hundreds who evacuated over the weekend were allowed to return as containment lines expanded.
The 3-square-mile fire just outside Bangor was 64 percent contained. One residence, a garage and three outbuildings have been destroyed since the blaze broke out, said Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.