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Swift Wildfire Razes 17 Homes Near Bend, Ore.

August 25, 1996|From Associated Press

BEND, Ore. — A fast-moving wildfire swept into a residential area in the sagebrush near this south-central Oregon city, destroying 17 homes and threatening hundreds of others.

"It's still burning with a fury," said firefighter Mike Skeels.

The 8,000-acre fire was spreading at about 1 mph and 500 homes in two subdivisions six miles southeast of Bend were evacuated in the morning before the blaze approached.

Within two hours, the fire had burned 2 miles into one subdivision, destroying 17 homes. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million and was expected to grow.

An emergency shelter was set up at a local high school, and by early evening 395 residents had signed in.

Officials also declared an emergency, requesting 40 National Guardsmen and 10 Humvee military vehicles to help with security. This picturesque city at the base of the Cascades has 28,000 residents.

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The blaze was one of about 30 Oregon fires started by lightning Friday, and more lightning was forecast during the weekend. Temperatures soared toward 100 degrees Saturday.

Meanwhile, a fire that officials suspect was caused by arson swept through 200 acres of the Angeles National Forest above Azusa on Saturday evening, sending up thick clouds of smoke and charring the rugged brush.

More than 300 firefighters battled the blaze, which started about 5:40 p.m., and U.S. Fire Service spokeswoman Randi Jorgensen said she expected reinforcements to arrive this morning. No structures were threatened, but a portion of the northbound highway through the forest was closed after nightfall.

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