AP News, Firefighting, News

High Winds, Temperatures Create Dangerous OR Fire Conditions

Hoses running from a fire truck

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Fire crews in Oregon and Washington faced challenging conditions as high winds and temperatures hit the Pacific Northwest on Labor Day.

A fire in Oregon grew to 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) Monday as officials prepared for high winds and dangerous conditions, according to the Statesman Journal.

Winds were expected to reach up to 75 mph (120 kph) late Monday and into Tuesday, officials said.

“The fire weather forecasted is extremely rare and occurs only a few times a century,” said Eric Johnson of Northwest Oregon Fire Management.

The entire Mount Jefferson Wilderness, the Olallie Lake area and the Opal Creek area were closed to recreation.

Fire officials overseeing the so-called Evans Canyon Fire in southeastern Washington state issued a warning until 8 p.m. Monday due to strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures “that could contribute to the rapid spread of any new or ongoing fires.”

Temperatures were forecast in the mid-80s in the valleys with winds shifting to northeast-east including gusts to 35 mph (56 kph), according to the Southwest Region of the Department of Natural Resources.

The Yakima Herald reports nearly 1,000 firefighters have fought the Evans Canyon Fire on the ground and in the air, using at least 127 engines, 13 bulldozers, two tank-like skidgines, 21 water tenders, six helicopters and two airplanes.

Joining them in the battle through the Yakima River Canyon was one of two specially equipped firefighting trains from BNSF Railway, both based in Washington.

A different wildfire was threatening the towns of Bridgeport and Mansfield in central Washington after it started Sunday night in Okanogan County and jumped the Columbia River, according to the Spokesman-Review.

It started south of Omak at about 9 p.m., according to the Mount Tolman Fire Dispatch Center. By 12:30 p.m. Monday, both towns were without power after numerous reports of downed power lines, and authorities ordered residents to evacuate as a wall of smoke and dust towered over the area.

Bridgeport was under a Level 2 evacuation notice, meaning they should voluntarily relocate or get ready to leave immediately. Mansfield was under a Level 3 notice, meaning “Get out now.”

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center says the Cold Springs fire had burned 78 square miles (202 square kilometers) by Monday afternoon.

The Washington State Patrol closed Highway 172 in both directions between Mansfield and McNeil Canyon Road west of the town. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said farmers were helping local authorities dig a fire line around the eastern and northern boundaries of Mansfield.