July 15, 2014 in City

Lightning lashes Oregon, igniting more wildfires

Blaze destroys six homes northeast of Klamath Falls
Steven Dubois And Tim Fought Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

In this photo released by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Moccasin Hill fire burns north of Sprague River, Ore., on Sunday. Lightning struck Oregon more than 6,000 times Sunday and Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Other fires

• Fire officials say they’re getting a better handle on a wildfire burning in central Washington even as new, smaller fires were reported around the state Monday.

 The Mills Canyon fire near Entiat was 34 percent contained Monday night, a fire spokesman said. It has burned across about 35 square miles.

 A new 20-acre brush fire near Lyle in southern Washington prompted the temporary closure of about 5 miles of state Highway 14 Monday night, the state Department of Natural Resources said.

 In the Methow Valley, ground crews, air tankers and helicopters hit hard Monday at a new 600-acre fire burning in grass south of Carlton, a fire spokesman said. No homes were believed threatened.

 Residents of three dozen homes near the Mills Canyon fire have been told to evacuate. Officials notified residents of about 500 other homes to watch fire updates and be prepared to leave.

• In Idaho, the Boise County Sheriff’s Office asked residents of about 60 homes east of Alder Creek in Garden Valley to voluntarily evacuate because of the Calder fire. It’s one of about 20 blazes sparked by lightning across the Boise National Forest during a storm Sunday night.

PORTLAND – A southern Oregon wildfire destroyed six homes and 14 other buildings, and dozens of additional blazes ignited after thousands of lightning strikes lashed the state.

The destructive Moccasin Hill fire – named for a long-standing subdivision – began Sunday near the ranching town of Sprague River, about 25 miles northeast of Klamath Falls, fire spokeswoman Erica Hupp said Monday. Many residents keep horses and cattle on plots of 3 to 5 acres, and neighbors have been stepping in to shelter both stock and pets, she said.

The blaze encompasses 4 1/2 square miles, fire officials said, and caused more than 100 people to evacuate before the threat subsided and many returned home.

Another fire spokeswoman, Tina O’Donnell, said 231 structures remained threatened Monday and one minor injury was reported. She did not know if the injury was suffered by a resident or a firefighter.

Walter “Butch” Browning, who operates a general store in Sprague River, said the flames reached the driveway at his home Sunday afternoon, forcing his wife to “get out of there” with a computer, a change of clothes, medications and the dogs. The wind changed direction, he said, sparing his place.

Wildfires are an annual concern for the community, Browning said. He has been evacuated at least four times in his 22 years on the property, and once lost a home, he said.

“I had two houses at one time; I have one now. I’m down to my last house,” he quipped. “It’s the price you pay for living in paradise, I guess.”

A shelter for displaced residents has been set up at the Sprague River Community Center. Only one person spent the night, but more people filtered in Monday to take advantage of food and other services, said Julie Miller, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Cascades Region.

The fire is believed to have been started by humans, though how it began is still under investigation. It is zero percent contained.

Meanwhile, lightning struck Oregon more than 6,000 times Sunday and Monday, touching off small fires by the dozens on both sides of the Cascades. Such a barrage can be expected to cause numerous “sleeper” or holdover fires in coming days, said Robin DeMario, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

Elsewhere in the West, authorities in Northern California say a wildfire started by exhaust from a truck at a marijuana cultivation site led to new evacuations Monday. It was not clear how many homes were included in the new evacuation order in the rural Shasta County community of Igo.

Fire officials previously said the Bully fire, which started on Friday, was threatening 15 homes after destroying eight homes and 10 other structures.

A 27-year-old Sacramento man, Freddie Alexander Smoke III, was arrested on suspicion of causing the blaze. Fire crews have been hindered by steep terrain, dry conditions and triple-digit heat.

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