Oregon's Wildfire Largest in a Century
GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Higher humidity and favorable wind on Sunday assisted firefighters trying to corral northern end of Oregon's largest wildfire in more than a century.
Wind out of the northeast helped firefighters set controlled fires during the night to remove fuel from the path of the 333,890-acre blaze.
"It's kind of burning back onto itself on the slopes," said Nigel Baker, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.
The fire was burning about 16 miles from Brookings, a coastal city near the California state line, and about four miles from the tiny outpost of Wilderness Retreat, he said. It was about 25 percent contained, said Carol Tocco of the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Elsewhere in the Northwest, a fast-moving fire just across the Columbia River Gorge near the small town of Murdock, Wash., was under control by Sunday morning, authorities said.
Murdock, a town of about 400 people, was evacuated Saturday night, but by Sunday morning, the highway into the area was reopened and residents were allowed to return. Four houses, three outbuildings and some cars burned.
While the weather helped fire crews on the north side of the huge Oregon fire, conditions were less favorable on the fire's eastern flank, where hot, dry weather was forecast into the week.
Firefighters were also working to keep the fire away from power lines west of O'Brien, near the California line. If the fire reaches those lines, power could be shut off to Crescent City, Calif. Crews had established three or four fire lines between the flames and the power lines, said Forest Service spokesman Mike Ferris.
Residents of nearby Gasquet, Calif., were allowed to return home Saturday after being evacuated earlier in the week when fire jumped a containment line.
More than 6,000 firefighters were at the blaze, which covers more than 460 square miles in southwest Oregon and northern California.
It is now larger than the 1933 Tillamook Fire, which burned 311,000 acres of Oregon forest. Some 19th century fires may have been bigger, but record keeping did not begin until after the Forest Service was established in the 1890s.
In California, another wildfire that had burned 61,550 acres northeast of San Diego was nearly surrounded Sunday. The blaze had destroyed at least 35 homes since July 29, the state Department of Forestry said.
As of Sunday, wildfires around the United States had burned 5.4 million acres this year, more than double the 10-year average of 2.4 million, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Last year, 1.7 million acres had burned by Aug. 11.