September 4, 2011 in Region

Oregon wildfires grow; Hood blaze jumps line

Jonathan J. Cooper Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A spotter plane makes its way around a burnout that strengthened the perimeter of the Dollar Lake fire on Mount Hood on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

PORTLAND – Hot, dry weather complicated efforts Saturday to fight wildfires across Oregon as crews ordered the evacuation of recreation areas near Sisters and a blaze near Mount Hood jumped a containment line and marched westward quickly.

Fire officials said the blazes were behaving mostly as predicted, but the forecast showed more fire-friendly weather through Labor Day weekend and potentially into this week. A smoky haze hung over Portland and southwest Washington, obscuring the Cascade Mountains.

The haze was a result of strong wind and an unstable atmosphere that helped one of the fires cross a containment line and advance several miles toward the west. It also forced firefighters to order more crews and equipment for the blaze, about 16 miles south of Hood River.

It was burning in a wilderness area away from the nearby town of Cooper Spur, said fire spokesman Peter Frenzen.

“There’s a lot of work in that line,” Frenzen said of the defunct containment strip. “But that’s the way it is with fire. You take each day.”

Helicopters dumped water on the blaze, and fire spokesman Peter Frenzen said crews would begin work today on a new containment line. Authorities widened their evacuation zone in the Mount Hood wilderness area and kept resources concentrated on the fire’s northeast flank, where they hope to protect private and county-owned land.

Several days of good firefighting weather helped crews get a handle on several of the blazes in Oregon. Crews hoped for cooler weather on Monday and Tuesday, but forecasts called for the heat to return and the humidity to dissipate by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, crews battling a fire west of Sisters evacuated a youth camp, as well as visitors at the Big Lake Recreation Area and hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

“We know it’s a holiday weekend and we hate to ruin everyone’s planned trips, but our priority is keeping everyone safe,” fire commander Steve Gage said.

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