Portland-area firefighters battling Chetco Bar fire along southern Oregon coast

(courtesy Oregon State Police)

Dozens of Portland-area firefighters are working a massive fire along the southern Oregon coast that has burned seven homes.

The Chetco Bar Fire is burning about five miles northeast of Brookings, a small town in Curry County.

A fire spokesperson told FOX 12 more than 102,000 acres have already been consumed by the lightning-sparked fire that is still zero percent contained. In addition to the homes, a number of outbuildings and cars have burned and roughly 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

Firefighters said good progress had been made as of Thursday afternoon, but heavy winds expected soon will test firefighters and the lines they’ve created.

Portland Fire and Rescue has 16 firefighters assigned to the fire, with crews stationed in areas to protect homes.

“It’s already starting to get more and more breezy here, and so our understanding is the winds are supposed to push in tonight. So our fire crews, we’ve been pushing as hard as we can,” Lt. Damon Simmons said by phone from Brookings. “We’re clearing things away from structures. We’re putting sprinkler systems around structures so that we can protect those houses for the people who are evacuated.”

Many of the firefighters down in southern Oregon have been away from their family for weeks.

Simmons said he arrived at the Chetco Bar Fire four days ago. He had already spent some time at a fire burning in Warm Springs and was only back home for a few hours before he got called to the fire on the coast. He said the time away from his kids is always tough.

“I try to explain it to them like this, ‘This community needs us more than we’re needed back home,’ but that’s a hard conversation to have with young children,” Simmons said. “But I’ll tell you what, it’s nothing like what the people here are going through, having to worry that their houses are going to burn up or being displaced from their houses.”

More than 1,100 firefighters were dispatched to the fire, with multiple agencies from the Portland metro area sending crews.

Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue has 28 firefighters stationed down there, according to a spokeswoman for the department. The Gresham firefighters’ union also shared a video on Twitter of crews at the coastal fire.

Crews still deployed and working hard at the Chetco Bar fire. @iaff43 @PortOfPortland pic.twitter.com/twuhMqCCwD— Gresham Firefighters (@GFD1062) August 22, 2017

According to incident commanders, firefighters have dug fire lines on the south and southwestern portions of the fire with hand crews. Helicopters and planes are also being utilized in firefighting efforts.

In a release, fire leaders noted Level 2 and 3 evacuations remain in effect. Residents in the Level 2 evacuation area are advised to remain prepared to leave the area at a moment's notice, while residents in the Level 3 evacuation area are advised to stay out of the area completely.

The Red Cross is running an emergency evacuation shelter at Riley Creek Elementary at 94350 6th Street in Gold Beach. Response leaders have also created an interactive map outlining evacuation areas and sharing emergency information contacts.

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