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Oregon fires burn from Columbia River Gorge to California border

by Jim Ryan, The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) |

Wildfires continue to burn across Oregon Thursday, the day after Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency amid an imminent threat of wildland blazes.

The largest of the fires covers over 20,000 acres in eastern Oregon, burning in priority sage-grouse habitat. The most prominent, a nearly 1,000-acre acre blaze near the Columbia River Gorge community of Mosier, has mostly been contained.

Several other blazes have prompted evacuations, closures and firefighter responses.

The governor’s declaration Wednesday enables several state agencies to collaborate and share resources to fight fires throughout the state. The Oregon National Guard will also respond as needed.

Much of Oregon has extreme fire danger, according to Brown’s office. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has also issued an air quality advisory for the Jefferson County, Warm Springs and Lakeview areas because of smoke from nearby blazes.

Oregon’s largest blaze, the human-caused Indian Creek Fire, covers an estimated 20,300 acres along U.S. 20 at Jonesboro. The fire, which started Sunday, is 20 percent contained and is burning important habitat for the sage grouse, whose numbers have been in decline in recent years.

Also burning thousands of acres is the Crane Fire, which started Sunday and now covers 2,270 acres near Lakeview and Oregon’s border with California. It has 5 percent containment.

The Mosier Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, which destroyed eight homes and 28 other structures, is mostly contained.

But a new fire cropped up nearby Wednesday, prompting evacuations and burning almost 100 acres of grass, scrub oak and brush before firefighters stopped its spread. Authorities said residents could return home Thursday but encouraged them to stay alert in case weather or fire conditions change. Some residents are now under a Level 1 (get ready) evacuation notice. The blaze is 50 percent contained.

Firefighters, meanwhile, continue to battle several other fires throughout the state.

* The lightning-caused Green Ridge Fire is burning in mixed conifers and sagebrush about 12 miles northwest of Sisters. The blaze covers about 1,900 acres and has prompted Level 1 and 2 (get set) evacuation notices.
* The Laurel Fire covers approximately 1,000 acres five miles south of Spray, a small community on Oregon 19 in Wheeler County.
* The Beachie Creek Fire covers an estimated 10 acres in the popular Opal Creek Wilderness. The blaze, which is burning in rugged and steep terrain, has prompted the closure of the Jawbone Flats, Three Pools and Opal Creek areas, two campgrounds and more than a dozen trails.
* The White River Fire in the Mt. Hood National Forest is estimated to cover 450 acres southeast of Oregon’s tallest peak. Recreation on the mountain is not affected.