Oregon Wildfires Threaten Homes

August 30, 2011

Weather conditions improved for firefighters trying to contain a 45,000-acre grass fire in central Oregon, after red flag warnings expired.

A dispatcher at the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville said Monday morning there were no flare-ups or problems overnight.

More than 300 firefighters have completed lines around about half of the fire that was started last Wednesday by lightning near the town of Clarno, about 60 miles southeast of The Dalles.

Firefighters had been working under a “red flag warning” in central Oregon as they battled a complex of wildfires that has burned 33,000 acres. On Sunday, Pam Sichting of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center said the critical fire weather could lead to erratic winds, new fire starts and potential danger to firefighters around the central Oregon town of Clarno, about 60 miles southeast of The Dalles.

Other wildfires have burned about 20,000 acres along the lower Deschutes River and 1,500 acres near the town of Warm Springs.

No one had been injured in the Hancock complex of fires as of Sunday afternoon.

Warm Springs Fire Management said residents of about 15 homes were put on an evacuation alert in the Sidwalter Area.

Close to the town of Warm Springs, the West Hills blaze has burned 1,500 acres, prompting some home evacuations along a road to provide less congestion during burnout operations.

The Razorback Fire burning on both sides of the Lower Deschutes River has burned about 20,239 acres and fire officials had no estimate of containment on Sunday.

That blaze is part of a trio of fires called the High Cascades Complex, which was declared a conflagration by Gov. John Kitzhaber on Sunday. Officials said the declaration cleared the way for the state fire marshal to call for equipment and fire crews to help local resources protect structures. Officials said about 190 homes were threatened.

Firefighters face the challenges of steep and rugged terrain, and light, flashy fuels that ignite and burn quickly.

A number of smaller fires also continued to burn in the area.

Several campgrounds have been closed, although rafters were still allowed to go down the Lower Deschutes River through Warm Spring on Sunday. Fire officials warned boaters, however, that their vehicles may be in danger if the fire spreads.

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