Oregon weathers fire evacuations, power outages in dry winds


A helicopter carries water on a longline to a wildfire near Salem, Ore., at sunset Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Climate change is bringing drier conditions to the Pacific Northwest and that requires strategies that have been common in fire-prone California for the past decade or more, said Erica Fleishman, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Campers at a state park in Oregon had to evacuate after a wildfire ignited and thousands in the state remained without power Saturday after utilities did targeted shutoffs in an effort to lessen the danger in dry and windy conditions.

Late Friday night, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office announced the evacuation order from Milo McIver State Park, which is about 24 miles southeast of Portland. Early Saturday morning, residents in several communities west of the park were told to be ready to evacuate.

In hopes of lessening the risk of more fires, Portland General Electric initially halted power to about 30,000 customers in 12 service areas but that number increased to more than 37,000 by Saturday. Pacific Power shut down service to more than 7,000 customers in a small community on the Pacific Coast, where a wildfire burned two years ago, and in pockets southeast of the state capitol of Salem. The number of Pacific Power customers without service increased to 12,000 on Saturday.

The largest fire in Oregon is the Double Creek Fire burning in the northeastern part of the state near the Idaho border. As of Saturday, the fire had burned more than 230 square miles. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said that the fire grew by 65 square miles overnight.

In central Oregon, the Cedar Creek Fire east of Oakridge has burned nearly 81 square miles. On Friday, officials ordered residents to immediately leave the greater Oakridge, Westfir and High Prairie areas due to increased fire activity.

The Van Meter Fire, which started Wednesday, is burning on Stukel Mountain about 13 miles southeast of Klamath Falls. One home and four structures have been destroyed and about 260 structures are threatened by that blaze, officials said.

In Washington state, the Goat Rocks Fire, south of Mount Rainier National Park, was started by lightning and has led to the closure of U.S. Highway 12 and the evacuation of neighborhoods east of the city of Packwood. Evacuations were also issued for several communities in Cowlitz County in response to the Kalama fire in Gifford Pinchot National Forest southwest of Mount St. Helens.

A red flag warming in Washington remains in effect through Sunday night, meaning that high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds will complicate fire conditions.

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