Gusty winds help spread fast growing central Oregon wildfire and prompt evacuations

LA PINE, Oregon (AP) — Gusty winds fueled a rapidly growing wildfire just outside the central Oregon community of La Pine and prompted evacuations Tuesday.

The fire was estimated to be 2.7 square miles (6.9 square kilometers) in size Tuesday night, Central Oregon Fire Information posted on the social media site X. The fire was growing and not contained.

Evacuation alerts were sent to 1,100 homes and businesses, said Lt. Jayson Janes of the Deschutes County Sherriff’s Office. He said about 50-60 people sought refuge at a local high school serving as an evacuation center.

It was not clear whether any structures had burned.

Gov. Tina Kotek invoked an order allowing the fire marshal to mobilize resources to help fight the blaze. A billowing plume of black and gray smoke loomed over businesses including grocery stores and strip malls.

Jodi Kerr was packing up her home decor and gifts store in La Pine so she could evacuate.

“It’s part of the risk of living in an area like this. It’s beautiful, but it’s wild,” said Kerr, the owner of Meandering Maker Mercantile.

She said it’s hard to think about the people who’ve spent years building businesses and then be concerned about losing it all overnight.

The fire started about one mile (1.6 kilometers) south of La Pine. It’s cause was under investigation.

Central Oregon Fire Management Service firefighters used dozers, or heavy construction equipment adapted to battle wildfires, to establish control lines around the blaze. Aircraft dropped fire retardant to slow the flames.

La Pine High School was serving as a temporary evacuation point while La Pine Rodeo Grounds was hosting a livestock and small animal shelter.

TV station KTVZ reported that several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and trails had been evacuated and closed.

La Pine is about 192 miles (309 kilometers) south of Portland.

In Southern California, about 2,500 San Diego residents were under evacuation orders as fire crews used aircraft to attack a blaze that broke out Tuesday afternoon near Torrey Pines State Beach. Authorities closed two Interstate 5 off-ramps as winds pushed flames through about 20 acres (8 hectares) of dry brush at a nature preserve and toward homes.

Firefighters working in steep, rugged terrain reached 5% containment and stopped the fire’s forward progress, officials said around 5 p.m.

Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. An evacuation center was set up at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Improved weather conditions aided firefighters as they battled a rural Northern California wildfire that destroyed two structures and threatened the community of Palermo, which is near where the state’s deadliest wildfire struck six years ago.

The fire spread over about 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers) in the initial hours Monday evening but was static Tuesday. Containment reached 25%, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said.

Winds subsided, marine air brought some cooling and “the conditions are favorable,” said Capt. Dan Collins of Cal Fire. The cause of the blaze — dubbed the Apache Fire — was under investigation.

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