- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Firefighters raced Friday to protect homes in a remote section of northeastern Oregon from a rapidly expanding wildfire that quadrupled in size in 24 hours as it destroyed three houses and a dozen other structures.

Gov. Kate Brown used her authority late Thursday to deploy firefighters from the Willamette Valley to protect property along the border with Washington.

The unincorporated community of Troy, Oregon, has been evacuated along with homes on both sides of the state line, fire officials said.

The blaze threatened more than 100 homes and a school, the state fire marshal’s office said.

Between Thursday and Friday mornings, the fire exploded from 19 square miles to 75, fueled by strong winds and extremely dry terrain.

“It hit the fine fuels of the grass areas and just took off,” said Erik Pronold, a spokesman for fire crews.

Fire officials were focused on protecting homes and didn’t plan a full-scale assault on the blaze.

Winds carried embers and started spot fires as far as a quarter-mile ahead of the primary fire, making it nearly impossible for firefighters to build an effective containment line, Pronold said.

The lightning-caused fire began a week ago just north of the Oregon-Washington border in Umatilla National Forest.

Meanwhile, some of the 900 people who had been battling another fire that destroyed 36 homes east of Portland were diverted to fight a new fire that began further east near Prairie City.

Homeowners were put on evacuation alert ahead of hotter weather expected over the weekend. The blaze had burned about 200 acres. Its cause remained under investigation.

Temperatures dropped Thursday and Friday but fire crews were hampered by winds with gusts as high as 35 mph.

Officials started reporting some containment of the blaze that began Aug. 12 near John Day and has scorched almost 100 square miles, much of it in Malheur National Forest.

The blaze was about 13 percent contained, at least 700 structures remained threatened, and evacuation orders continued.

The Oregon National Guard said 125 soldiers from around the state were expected to report Friday to Salem for fire training before being dispatched next week to help cleanup efforts at the John Day fire.


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