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Wildfires escalate in West; Oregon town threatened

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A 4,300-acre wildfire threatened a small eastern Oregon town on Tuesday, one of more than 200 blazes burning on more than 100,000 acres across the West.

The residents of the threatened Oregon town, called Monument, didn’t seem too concerned about the wildfire three miles away.

”Nope, there are no plans to evacuate,” said City Clerk Carmen Woodell. She saw lots of smoke outside her City Hall window, ”but it’s a long ways away.”



Gov. John Kitzhaber and fire officials showed more concern about the Monument Complex fire. Kitzhaber declared a ”state of conflagration,” which means any agencies sending firefighters and gear to the fire will be reimbursed by the state.

The fire was threatening Monument ”plus at least 12 additional homes,” said David Widmark, spokesman for the Northwest Coordination Center in Portland.



Monument, about 270 miles east of Portland, has a population of about 150.

A new wildfire also flared outside Ukiah, just northeast of Monument. It had grown to about 3,000 acres by Tuesday afternoon.

Across the West, 10,320 firefighters struggled to contain 271 blazes that had burned through more than 110,000 acres over the past day, said the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise, Idaho.

Wildfires burned in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma.

In Oregon, a total of nearly 75,000 acres were burning on Tuesday, battled by about 3,800 firefighters, helicopters and aerial tankers.

In Washington state, dozens of homes and cabins were threatened by wildfires burning across nearly 13,000 acres of grass, sagebrush and timber from the Cascade Range east to the Idaho border.

The largest blaze, the Virginia Lake fire complex on the Colville Indian Reservation, had burned 7,700 acres, destroyed six homes and threatened another 30, said Nick Mickel, a spokesman for the agencies fighting the fire.

On Monday, a bulldozer operator and a scout, clearing a fire trail, were caught in the blaze and forced to deploy their emergency fire shelters, Mickel said. Both were treated at an area hospital emergency room and released but their names were not immediately available.

Crews in northern Nevada claimed victory over the 82,000-acre Sheep fire and turned their attention toward the nearby Coyote fire, which was 10 percent contained at 7,200 acres.

More than 205,000 acres have burned in Nevada since late last week, most of it grassland. A pall of smoke obscured the mountains north of Interstate 80 along a 50-mile stretch between Battle Mountain and Winnemucca.

Four separate fires – one as large as 62,900 acres – were burning throughout Northern California.

More than 850 firefighters and support personnel fought a range fire east of Ravendale, Calif., about 50 miles north of Susanville, that had grown to 62,900 acres. The Observation fire was 55 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, said Jeff Fontana, a spokesman for the Susanville Interagency Fire Center. He predicted full containment by Thursday.

More than 1,600 firefighters, 80 fire engines, and seven helicopters were battling a 27,800-acre wildfire about 13 miles east of the California town of Likely. The Blue Fire was 10 percent contained Tuesday.

In California’s Mendocino National Forest, a 13,000-acre fire that had destroyed 10 residences was 52 percent contained as of Tuesday morning. More than 1,500 firefighters, 15 helicopters, six air tankers and four bulldozers were battling that fire.

Several campgrounds were evacuated Monday and two structures, including one home, were destroyed in the Sierra Nevada Gap fire that had grown to 1,620 acres by Tuesday and was 35 percent contained.

The 30 or so wildfires burning in Oregon have stretched firefighting agencies to the limit. On Monday, Kitzhaber freed up 200 National Guardsmen to help out with mop-up duties – making it possible for more firefighters to be sent to fire lines.

Nearly 1,250 firefighters, water-dumping helicopters and aerial tankers were fighting the 5,100-acre Quartz Fire about 10 miles southwest of Ashland, Ore., near the California border. Concerns for about a dozen homes in a small patch of private land, known as Dog Fork, has eased a bit.

”They’re trying to pinch it down gradually as it moves through very dry forests,” said Tom Berglund, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Still, said Berglund, ”you’ve got 105 degree temperatures and dry fuels – it’s an explosive situation.”

Firefighters were clearing out two roads to serve as backup fire lines in case the Quartz Fire moves to the east.

Some 100 miles to the north of Ashland, fire crews and engines worked on the Olallie Fire Complex – a dozen blazes on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation and on the Mount Hood National Forest, where several campgrounds and trails were closed because of the fire.

The Sheeps Head fire near Oregon’s Steens Mountain had grown to 47,100 acres and was 40 percent contained, Tuesday afternoon.

The Crane Prairie Complex, 15 miles west of La Pine, is burning in ”a lot of wildlife habitat” and is at 400 acres with 40 percent containment, said Widmark, spokesman for the Northwest Coordination Center.

On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/

Northwest Coordination Center: http://www.or.blm.gov/nwcc/


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