Winds help keep Gorge wildfire away from homes

Winds help keep Gorge wildfire away from homes

LYLE, Wash. – Favorable wind patterns helped firefighters get the upper hand on a wildfire burning near the Columbia River Gorge town of Lyle, Wash.

As of Thursday afternoon the fire had burned about 100 acres. Firefighters said only a few areas were still actively burning.

Winds at the fire have been blowing away from a few homes in the area, which helps firefighters. They also got an assist from nearby Major Creek, which acted as a natural barrier to the fire.

"Most of our big fires in the Gorge it's really about how windy it is," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stan Hinatsu. "When we have strong winds and the fire aligns with the winds, that's when our fires can get real big real fast."

Firefighters determined the fire was human-caused and not from lightning, although the exact source isn’t clear. It could have been from a car, a cigarette butt, fireworks or something else, officials said.

The fire mostly charred forest service land, according Hinatsu. Some of the burned land was also Native American trust land.

Hinatsu said if the wind patterns had been different the fire could have moved towards the homes or private land to the east.

"It's looking pretty good out there," Hinatsu said, although he added a gust could still send an ember across a road and spark a new fire.

John Sauter owns one of the homes near the fire. His family has lived there for more than a century.

He was out of the area working on Wednesday. When he got back into cell range he had 13 messages on his phone about the fire.

"There's a fire coming toward your place," Sauter recalled with a laugh. "So I raced home."

On Thursday firefighters performed a tactic called “gridding” where they scanned the burned areas in a grid pattern to look for any hot spots.

About 100 firefighters worked on this fire.

"Firefighter safety is our biggest concern, especially with what happened in Arizona it's really on everybody's mind," Hinatsu said. "We're not being any more cautious than we normally would, but it raises that level of emotion a little bit."

Firefighters will continue to monitor this area through the rest of fire season to check for flare-ups. Those checks will happen daily.

This fire burned about three miles away from the area where a 2,000-acre fire burned in 2010.

Wildfire burns in Eastern Oregon

Thunderstorms gathering south of an Eastern Oregon fire near the Owyhee Dam have firefighters concerned that high winds and dry fuel could breathe new life into the slowly growing blaze.

Fire officials said crews totaling about 260 people were on the fire Thursday morning. Helicopters are dumping water on it.

No structures are threatened, but the storms and high winds could change that. Flames have been reported within a few hundred yards of structures at the Owyhee State Park.

The Owyhee Fire is burning in an area of nearly 45,000 acres, or about 70 square miles. Lightning started it Monday.

Firefighters made progress against the fire Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, conducting burnout operations on fuel sources near structures, roads and power lines.

The Associated Press contributed to this story