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Oregon National Guard to Join Battle to Control Fire Threatening The Dalles

July 28, 2002|From Associated Press

THE DALLES, Ore. — Homes overlooking the Columbia River gorge were threatened Saturday as a 9,000-acre wildfire was pushed by gusty winds to within two miles of here and more residents were urged to leave.

About 125 Oregon National Guard troops were on their way to join the 800 firefighters already at work protecting the city of about 12,000 residents on the river bluffs. Gray smoke billowed from the gorge, with Mt. Hood and Mt. Adam just visible in the distance.

The blaze grew by 3,000 acres during the night and was only 30% contained, fire officials said.

Residents of 20 more homes were urged to evacuate Saturday, bringing the total to close to 250, said Stan Hinatsu, spokesman at the fire command center. Two outbuildings burned during the night, but no homes were destroyed, he said. A few outbuildings also burned Friday.

Fire crews struggled against the wind to contain the fire's northeast flank in steep, hard-to-reach terrain. An additional 400 homes could be threatened if the wind shifts, fire officials said.

"Winds in the gorge are the single most significant element. It's been a very dangerous fire," Hinatsu said. "Our focus is firefighter safety and defending structures."

Flames were within a few feet of some hillside houses Friday. City workers in The Dalles abandoned the water treatment plant, taking with them chlorine and other potentially dangerous materials.

"This is a very, very serious situation for the state in terms of risk for property and life," Gov. John Kitzhaber said Friday.

Fourteen major active fires, all started by lightning, had burned 258,000 acres in Oregon by Saturday, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. More than 10,000 firefighters battled the blazes.

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