Fire Outside Monument Becomes a Top Priority for Ore. Crews

A rapidly growing wildfire burning outside the Eastern Oregon ranching town of Monument has increased to 36 square miles, threatening about 20 homes to become one of the state’s top firefighting priorities, officials said yesterday.

The Monument Complex fire is among 15 large wildfires burning across the state, said Jeree Mills, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The fires were burning on more than 300 square miles, mainly in southwestern and Eastern Oregon.

Rain has entered Western Oregon, but it’s still hot and dry in the regions where the fires are burning, and winds have been whipping up the flames.

“They’re having a hard time with the weather. The wind is pushing these fires,” Mills said.

The lightning-caused Monument Complex fire, which began last Friday, is burning about 5 miles north of the town and has been growing rapidly, the coordination center said.

A total of 600 personnel are battling the blaze, Mills said.

“My guess is you’ll see that rise every day,” she said.

Another worry for fire crews is a wildfire that has spread from Northern California into southern Oregon’s Lake County. Three Lake County homes were evacuated on Monday as the Fletcher fire moved through timberlands in Modoc County, Calif. to ranch land about 20 miles southwest of Lakeview. Officials said heavy winds fanned the blaze, which began July 10 just south of the state line.