Hot, dry winds could fan stubborn wildfires

Red flag warnings went up Thursday for hot, dry winds and thunderstorms that could fan stubborn wildfires burning in Oregon.

The fires stretching along the spine of the Cascade Range have closed recreation areas on Mount Hood and near Sisters, as well as sections of the popular Pacific Crest Trail, and threatened high-voltage power lines and the city of Portland's water supply.

On Mount Hood, firefighters focused on strengthening lines on the northwestern corner of the 4,500-acre Dollar Lake fire to keep it from moving closer to the Bull Run Watershed, which supplies Portland, and Bonneville Power Administration transmission lines, said fire spokesman Peter Frenzen.

Red flag warnings, which alert firefighters of extreme weather that can whip up fires, were forecast through Sunday for hot, dry winds out of the east. Firefighters were taking advantage of good burning conditions to set intentional fires to clear out fuel along containment lines.

"It's another good day for firefighters," said Frenzen. Containment increased to 25 percent.

Frenzen said there was no immediate threat to homes in the Lolo Pass area, which was still nine miles from the fire. Roads and trails in that area have been closed to the public. A section of the Pacific Coast Trail was closed, and hikers were detoured onto nearby roads. The fire remained three miles from the Bull Run Watershed and power lines.

While the range fires that threatened homes and closed roads last week on the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation were fully contained, a fire burning in heavy timber and stands of beetle-killed pine was growing. Fire officials said the Badger Butte fire was at nearly 2,000 acres, and might move onto the Mount Hood National Forest, where it could threaten BPA power lines.

The expected containment of the entire High Cascades complex of fires was pushed back to Sept. 21. A section of the Pacific Coast Trail was closed there, as well.

The Shadow Lake fire on the northern flank of Mount Washington continued burning to the west and away from the towns of Sisters and Black Butte Ranch. Fire spokeswoman Kristen Bowles said the fire moved more than a half-mile to the west, expanding to about 6,000 acres. Roads, campgrounds and hiking trails around the fire — including the Big Lake and Meadows Lake areas and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail — remained closed to the public. There was no projected date when the fire would be contained.

At the southern end of the state, the Little Butte fire grew to 467 acres and remained 5 percent contained, said fire spokesman Brian Ballou. The fire is 12 miles northeast of Ashland and five miles southwest of the resort at Fish Lake. Red flag warnings were up in the morning for possible thunderstorms.

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