- Associated Press - Thursday, August 17, 2017

SISTERS, Ore. (AP) - With the solar eclipse just days away, a wildfire raging within Oregon’s path of totality threatened more than 650 structures Thursday and led officials to issue evacuation warnings.

Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act so the Oregon fire marshal can mobilize resources from around the state to protect homes.

“State agencies are already working around the clock and across the state, and as we get closer to the total solar eclipse, we’ll need all resources available to keep communities, visitors, and property safe,” Brown said in a statement.

The wildfire was burning in the center of the state near the town of Sisters in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. The blaze started last week and stayed relatively small and tame for days. It expanded Wednesday to more than 5 square miles (13 square kilometers), charring dead timber in the scar of a 2006 wildfire.

More than 200 firefighters were working to establish containment lines.

The homes where people were told to prepare to evacuate lie west of Sisters, the Western-themed town where eclipse observers will see 34 seconds of totality on Monday. The Red Cross has opened a shelter at Sisters Middle School for those who choose to leave.

Late Thursday, Oregon Department of Transportation officials closed McKenzie Pass Highway, also known as Highway 242, west of Sisters. Campers and hikers were being escorted from the area, the agency said.

Other wildfires are burning in what is typically Oregon’s busiest month for wildland firefighters. The state after a very wet winter and spring has so far been spared the kind of wildfire that destroys neighborhoods and burns areas the size of Rhode Island.

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