- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Red Cross is handing out shovels, rakes and flashlights to people returning to homes burned by a wildfire south of John Day in eastern Oregon.

Lisa Stroup, executive director for the Red Cross in central and eastern Oregon, said Tuesday families need the tools to sift through what was left by the wind-driven fire.

The Canyon Creek Complex of fires destroyed 26 homes and damaged 50 others when the wind started blowing at more than 40 mph Friday. It has burned through about 63 square miles, mostly on the Malheur National Forest, and was zero percent contained.

Another 500 structures are threatened by the fire that is the No. 1 priority in Oregon for receiving resources when they become available. Crews from around the state have been brought in to protect homes. Power is out along a stretch of Highway 395 south of John Day.

People have volunteered to help clean up burned over properties, and donated the use of backhoes to bury dead livestock, Stroup said.

The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, where much of the fire is burning, is closed.

It is one of 12 major wildfires burning in Oregon. Smoke from wildfires made air quality moderate to unhealthy for special groups across most of the state, with the exception of Portland and the northern Willamette Valley.

More than 550 firefighters were at the scene as of late Monday - a day when fire behavior was active but not extreme. Crews often dug lines by hand in areas too steep for bulldozers to climb, while helicopters doused hot spots from above.

Elsewhere, the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in Central Oregon reopened after a wildfire forced 400 guests to evacuate as a precaution last week. The fire that threatened the resort is now more than 30 percent contained.

The Cornet-Windy Ridge fire near Baker City remains the state’s largest wildfire. The blaze has scorched more than 150 square miles but is 35 percent contained.

The north entrance to Crater Lake National Park remains closed, as does Highway 230, while firefighters struggle to contain the lighting-caused National Creek Complex of fires on the border between the park and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Crews braced for westerly winds expected to spread the fire. The fires are 10 percent contained after burning through nearly 9 square miles of timber.

Smoke from the fires is blowing into the park, and several hiking trails, including a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, are closed.

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