Wind propels several Pacific NW wildfires

Two helicopters with buckets were able to quickly attack the "Major Creek Fire" that started July 3, 2013, near Lyle, Wash. However, the fire grew to 100 acres as of Wednesday night, according to the Department of Natural Resources. (Tony Meillo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Eastern Oregon fire near the Owyhee Dam and reservoir got active in windy weather Wednesday.

This is just one of a number of wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington.

The Owyhee Fire is burning in an area of nearly 45,000 acres, or about 70 square miles. More firefighters headed to this fire Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Temperatures are expected to cool but the winds are forecast to pick up.

Owyhee River
FILE — Lake Billy Shaw on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation on the Idaho-Nevada border, was built with federal money in 1998 to help mitigate the loss of salmon on the Owyhee River caused by dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers. (AP Photo/John Miller)

Spokesman Tim Johnson said flames were reported within a few hundred yards of structures at the state park. Structures in the area include cabins and a state parks building.

Fire officials said crews totaling about 240 people were on the fire Wednesday morning and helicopters are dumping water on it.

Local officials, though, reopened a road to the Owyhee Dam for recreational users. The road was closed as of earlier Wednesday. Officials said the road will be busy with fire vehicles and could be closed again on short notice.

The fire area is estimated at up to 62 square miles, or 40,000 acres. Lightning started it Monday.

Farther south in Malheur County, firefighters expect by Friday to contain three fires totaling 12,000 acres. Two fires broke out farther south in Malheur County as lightning lit up the sky in a wide area of southeastern Oregon.

7-3-13-MAJOR CREEK FIRE-Tony Meillo
Fire crews assess the “Major Creek Fire” near Lyle, Wash., on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. (Courtesy Tony Meillo)

In Washington state, around 3 p.m. Wednesday the “Major Creek Fire” began burning near the Lyle, Wash., area of the Columbia Gorge. At the time the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office reported that crews have responded to the fire, and no homes are threatened.

Two helicopters with water buckets were quickly dispatched to the scene. As of 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Washington fire had grown to about 100 acres, said Davie Kindell of the Fire Prevention Team with the Department of Natural Resources.

DNR has 85 fire personnel on the fire Wednesday night. They expect to have 150 people there by Thursday afternoon.

The cause of this fire is still under investigation, Kindell said late Wednesday. It’s burning in steep terrain of grass and oak, primarily. The nearest structures are on the opposite side of the fire, about a half mile away.

There was a wildland fire in the same general area last year.

Most of the local fire resources, DNR and the Forest Service resources for this area are allocated to this fire. As such, authorities are asking that if people choose to use fireworks they should “exercise extra caution tomorrow and throughout the summer.”

Kindell said the fire danger is expected to be higher this year than in years past.

— The Associated Press contributed information on the Oregon fires for use in this report.

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