Oregon wildfires destroy homes
August 25, 1996
PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- A fast-moving wildfire in Bend, Oregon, has destroyed 19 homes, damaged six others and threatens hundreds more, a fire official said early Sunday.
"It's still burning with a fury," said firefighter Mike Skeels, as the 12,000-acre fire spread rapidly.
Five hundred homes in two subdivisions six miles southeast of Bend were evacuated in the morning before the blaze approached.
No injuries were reported. But within two hours of the fire's spread, more than a dozen homes were destroyed and six others were damaged, according to Tom Knapenberger of the Oregon-Washington Inter-Fire Agency.
Initial damage reports were estimated at $1.5 million.
By Saturday evening, about 450 of this picturesque city's 28,000 residents had signed into an emergency shelter set up at a local high school.
Evacuee Russ Anderson went to the shelter, not knowing whether his home had been damaged.
"You've got your whole life, everything that you've worked for all your life, right there," said Anderson, who grabbed his dogs, a few valuables and a change of clothes before leaving.
Forty National Guardsmen and 10 Humvee military vehicles were called into help with security after officials declared an emergency.
By early evening, the fire had shifted away from Bend and towards the southeast, said Greg McClaren of an interagency fire center.
With temperatures soaring, officials feared the fire would spread farther. The blaze was one of about 30 Oregon fires started by lightning on Friday, and more storms were forecast during the weekend.
"With the very dry, warm weather, it could be a very hectic day for firefighters," said Stan Hinatsu, fire information officer for the Northwest Coordination Center in Portland.
In the Waldo Lake area of Willamette National Forest, 50 miles southwest of Bend, four campgrounds were evacuated after a group of lightning-caused fires were ignited.
As of Saturday, an estimated 209,000 acres were charred by fires in Oregon, pushing the total for burned acres over the summer months to 400,000.
Fires also burned Saturday in parts of California, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
Mary Hale, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman, said six air tankers are being sent to help fight a 23,600-acre blaze in Yosemite National Park in California, where about 500 people were evacuated from a camp. Another 50 residents were told to leave the small town of Aspen Valley; workers from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir also were evacuated.
In other parts of California, firefighters were preparing to leave after beating down an 82,000-acre fire in the Mendocino National Forest and a 23,000-acre blaze in the Stanislaus National Forest.
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