3 communities evacuated as wildfire intensifies on Oregon-Washington border – OregonLive.com
A wildfire that has scorched 12,000 acres along the Oregon-Washington border has “made a significant run to the east” and is threatening the Wallowa County communities of Eden Bench, Troy and Grouse Flat.
Officials issued a level three evacuation order for the northeast Oregon communities, urging the residents of about 100 homes to leave immediately. The blaze is among the 13 comprising the Grizzly Bear Complex fire in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness centered north of the Washington/Oregon border.
Winds with gusts as high as 25 mph, combined with heat and parched conditions, are quickly building up the lightning-caused fire 20 miles southeast of Dayton, Washington. Plumes of smoke are visible from La Grande, Oregon, and Walla Walla, Washington. The fire is at zero percent containment.
Forest officials have issued a level one evacuation notice — meaning people need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice — for the outlying communities north and east of Anatone, Washington.
Firefighters across the Pacific Northwest are bracing for a gusty two days across eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon, winds that are likely to cause growth on the more than two dozen large, uncontained wildfires burning across both states.
As of Thursday, large fires in Oregon and Washington had burned through 704,317 acres, an increase of 78,722 acres over a 24-hour span. One broke out Thursday afternoon northeast of Prairie City, charring at least 50 acres as it headed toward a canyon dotted with close to a dozen homes.
Both states have activated the National Guard to fight fires, and a reciprocity agreement with Australian fire officials will bring qualified fire line supervisors from down under to the Northwest over the next several days, said Koshare Eagle, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland.
National Guard troops — some of whom will undergo rudimentary firefighting techniques before being deployed and some who underwent training in March — will be assigned to fires where the greatest need matches their level of training, Eagle said.
Also Thursday, Washington officials announced that, for the first time in state history, they would accept help from residents skilled at operating heavy equipment like backhoes and bulldozers to dig fire lines.
Fires of note in Oregon and Washington
— Twisp River Road fire is burning 5 miles west of Twisp, Washington, and is zero percent contained. Three firefighters died and four were injured when their vehicle crashed and they were overcome by flames Wednesday. The fire showed rapid growth to 16,000 acres. The cause is unknown, and the communities of Twisp and Winthrop are under evacuation orders.
— Okanogan Complex of fires was sparked by lightning Aug. 14 and has grown to 91,314 acres. It is 38 percent contained and has destroyed homes and structures. Evacuations are in effect as are road closures.
— Cornet-Windy Ridge fire is burning 17 miles southeast of Baker City and has grown to 103,540 acre; the cause is unknown. The fire is 70 percent contained and some evacuations are still in place.
— The Eldorado fire burning 40 miles east of John Day broke out Aug. 14. The fire’s cause is unknown and is 40 percent contained. Some residences and structures have burned and others remain under threat.
— County Line 2 fire has scorched 63,600 acres of mostly grass and rangeland on the Warm Spring Reservation before moving to timber on the east slopes of the Cascades. Some evacuations are still in place. The fire’s cause is under investigation. It is 50 percent contained.
— The Cougar Creek fire burning on the south flanks of Mount Adams was started by lightning Aug. 10. The fire has burned through 23,900 acres and is 20 percent contained. There are road and trail closures in effect.
— Canyon Creek Complex has burned 36 residences and through 48,201 acres 7 miles north of Seneca. The lightning-caused fire was started Aug. 12 and is 10 percent contained. Residences remain under threat and evacuations are in place; there are road and trail closures.
The Oregon Department of Forestry sent out a reminder Thursday that the “state can’t afford any more human-caused fires.” There have been 551 human-caused fires that have collectively burned 27,048 acres, according to the agency. The average over 10 years is 433 fires a year.
Laura Gunderson and Les Zaitz of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.
— Nuran Alteir