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Northwest wildfires: Crews make progress but extreme conditions remain in parts of Oregon

Lynne Terry | By Lynne Terry |
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on August 18, 2014 at 9:53 AM
Firefighters across the Northwest have made progress in the past 24 hours thanks to cooler temperatures and higher humidity but forecasters warned Monday that part of Oregon still faces an extreme fire threat.

A total of 15 large, uncontrolled blazes are burning in Oregon and Washington, with 16 holdover fires popping up in the last 24 hours from lightning strikes last week.

Initial attack crews managed to contain all of the small fires while making progress against big ones, said Carol Connolly, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

"Things are looking pretty good on the large fires," she said. "Crews are starting to increase containment numbers."

The improvement has been good news for weary crews, who've been toiling around the clock. Bosses were able to demobilize 1,000 firefighters and support personnel in Oregon on Sunday, and allow the same number in Washington to leave. Many will go home though some might be relocated after they get some rest.

As for the weather, the lightning storms have subsided but Oregon was still hit by just over 2,600 strikes in the past 24 hours, mostly east of the Cascades. Nearly 125 strikes were recorded in Washington. Forecasters issued a red flag warning on Monday for south-central Oregon, indicating an extreme fire threat there. On Tuesday, they predict that heavy winds will sweep across northern Oregon up into Washington.

Here's a snapshot of fires in Oregon:

The South Fork complex south of John Day has charred nearly 65,000 acres and is 72 percent contained.

The Sommers Fire northeast of Enterprise grew has scorched nearly 36,000 acres and is 58 percent contained.

The Staley complex southeast of Oakridge has torched about 270 acres and is now 47 percent contained.

The Bald Sisters Fire has burned more than 1,100 acres in Grant County east of Prairie City and remains zero percent contained.

The Rogue River drive fire north of Medford has charred 500 acres and is 60 percent contained.

-- Lynne Terry
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