High winds blow slash burns into wildfires, threaten homes along Oregon coast
GEARHART Ore. (KPTV) - Windy conditions along the coast fueled several fires Thursday night and Friday, prompting evacuations and filling the skies in Seaside and Gearhart with smoke.
“I was surprised by how much was out here and how much harder it was with this kind of condition,” Shannon McKenna, who lives in Gearhart, said.
The Oregon Department of Forestry said the biggest of the fires is the 98 Delta fire, east of Gearhart, which started off as a controlled burn on private forestland and got out of control, spreading to state forestland.
It’s now reached 140 acres and four homes are under Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation at the end of Saddle Mountain Country Road. ODF said Saddle Mountain Country Road is closed at the intersection of Wawa Mainline Road.
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“Many customers came in today wearing masks specifically in reaction to how bad the smoke is outside,” Joy Sigler said.
Sigler owns Pacific Crest Cottage in Gearhart but saw the impacts of the fires around the area.
“Oddly enough we, my husband and I, traveled down to Tillamook this morning and passed through a lot of smoke,” Sigler said.
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Just south of Seaside, the Tillamook Head fire has been contained but it also started as a slash burn. The ODF said these fires were lit when there was consistent rain, but they can smolder for months. They said the dry and windy conditions also helped rekindle the flames.
Sigler said controlled burns are pretty typical but the wildfires they’re seeing are not.
“The fact that so many have gotten out of control makes one wonder if it’s not yet wet enough to be doing those controlled burns,” she said. “This time of year, for this location? Very, very unusual.”
Another fire, the Green Gold Fire, is about 10 acres in size and located by the Clatsop and Columbia county lines.
In Washington, there is a 60-acre wildfire in Chinook that is about 90% contained and another 4.5 acre wildfire that is very visible from Astoria above Dismal Nitch.
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Fire crews are working with 15 to 25 mph east winds with gust up to 50 mph. ODF said crews are working to establish lines on the east, north and south flanks of the fires.
More information about the fires can be found here and here.
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