Oregon wildfire forces evacuations in eclipse zone

The Oregon Office of State Fire Marshall Office brought engines from Marion & Multnomah Counties 2 help with structure protection on the Milli Fire, August 18, 2017 (Oregon State Fire Marshal)

SISTERS, Ore. (AP) — Evacuation orders were issued for about 600 residents in a prime eclipse-viewing location in Oregon threatened by a wildfire that has closed access to part of a wilderness area.

Fire officials said Saturday another 1,000 residents near the tourist town of Sisters have been told to be ready to leave if necessary.

No structures have been lost and no injuries have been reported since the fire began last week in Central Oregon. The cause is under investigation.

Crews were expecting a tough day Saturday with winds gusting to more than 20 mph.

On Monday, they will have to contend with the solar eclipse that fire officials say will ground all firefighting helicopters and most fixed-wing aircraft for about 35 minutes as the moon’s shadow passes over the area.

Sisters is located on the southern edge of a 70-mile swath of Oregon where the moon will completely blot out the sun. Shopkeepers were hoping the fire would not inhibit business as tourists arrive to watch the eclipse.

“If you look up at the sky it’s not an orange cloud anymore,” said Andrew Bourgerie, co-owner of Sisters Bakery. “So it’s simmering down a little bit.”

Some campsites and recreational areas were shut down due to the 12-square-mile (31-square kilometer) wildfire in Deschutes National Forest that jumped fire lines Friday.

Officials say the blaze is producing heavy smoke while burning in forests at higher elevations and sagebrush in lower areas.
“We have a few days before the eclipse to see if the smoke is in the area,” fire spokeswoman Lisa Clark said.

Officials said only aircraft with instruments allowing them to fly at night can fight the fire during the eclipse. Clark said that eliminates the bulk of firefighting fleet, though large airtankers will be able to fly.

Clark said firefighters are benefiting from the previous removal of brush and debris that could have fueled flames.
Idaho’s two largest wildfires were burning mostly in wilderness areas.

One fire burned 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) in Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and another in Gospel Hump Wilderness had burned 21 square miles (54 square kilometers).

A backcountry airstrip is closed due to fire activity.

In Arizona, officials say charges have been dismissed against Gene Carpenter, 54, who was arrested on suspicion of operating his drone in restricted airspace over a fire in June.

Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane said new evidence was being investigated.

Official information on all wildfires in Oregon is available on the Inciweb site.



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