May 5, 2013 in Region

Winds topple trees, spark fires in Oregon

Jonathan J. Cooper Associated Press
 

PORTLAND – Winds gusting to 40 mph wreaked havoc on parts of Central Oregon on Saturday, toppling trees that blocked roads and downing power lines that sparked at least two small wildfires and forced two dozen people to evacuate their homes.

The fires were small, estimated at 10 acres and 100 acres respectively – a small fraction of a square mile. But strong winds and warm temperatures made them tough to fight.

Twenty-four people were evacuated when flames got too close to the Crescent Creek subdivision near La Pine. Residents of another nearby subdivision were told to prepare their belongings and pets and be ready to evacuate if the order is given, authorities said.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation shelter.

Fire crews were able to make progress containing the fires as winds died down Saturday evening, said Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center. The larger fire was about 80 percent contained, she said. Power-company workers were heading to the smaller fire to clear downed lines so fire crews could safely finish a containment line.

One blaze burned close to an elementary school in La Pine, but school property was not damaged, said Lt. Chad Davis of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. The fires hadn’t burned any structures, he said.

No injuries were reported, but the authorities advised people to stay indoors until the winds subsided and crews could clean up roadways. Davis said the sheriff’s office received several reports of transformers exploding and trees catching fire.

The gusty winds and unusually warm weather brought an early start to fire season in the Pacific Northwest.

Firefighters contained a third small fire about 4 miles south of Redmond. Crews were still investigating the cause. Authorities in Washington said a small, 10-acre blaze was creating a large amount of smoke in a remote, mountainous area between Portland and Seattle.

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