Eagle Creek fire merges with Indian Creek fires, burning 30000 acres

Creek Fire visible from the nearby town Cascade Locks

A growing OR wildfire covered parts of Portland's metropolitan area Tuesday with ash and forced the shutdown of a lengthy stretch of highway through the state's scenic Columbia River Gorge. In the Pacific Northwest, human-caused wildfires cluster near the major metropolitan regions of Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

"Weather and fuel conditions are predicted to continue to be conducive to wildfire ignitions and spread in most of the western US through September - and in parts of the Northern Rockies and California through October", said Jennifer Jones, spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire fighting.

The 16-square mile (41-square kilometers) fire east of Portland forced hundreds of home evacuations. But the temperatures are expected to warm up over the rest of the week and fire officials say the fire season is far from over.

Deputies are out in force to deter looting at evacuated homes, questioning people who do not have a reason for being in the wildfire zone, Reese said.

"It is believed he and others may have been using fireworks which started the forest fire along the Eagle Creek Trail", Oregon State Police said in a news release.

"They're going to have to make sure it's perfectly safe for people to be out there before they open those trails up", he said. Downed trees have closed nearby interstate I-84, which extends 55 miles west to Portland, crippling the area. He also said that "If it jumps the road, you'd be driving through a wall of flame".

People in OR covered their faces to shield themselves from the smoke and the ashes falling on them.

"You can't really stand outside without getting rained on" by ash, said Joanna Fisher as she walked to work in Troutdale, Oregon. In a separate incident fast-moving wildfire in northern Utah dragged down a Canyon demolishing propelling clearing and closing highways.




In Washington, about 75 firefighters are battling the blaze. "A fire, say in the wilderness area, where there are no threats to structures or other established resources or communities, we wouldn't be flying those resources on that, whereas we would if it was threatening a community and other infrastructure".

Dozens of wildfires also burnt more than 800 square kilometers in OR this past week.

In Washington, the U.S. Department of Defense agreed to assign 200 active-duty soldiers to help fight a wildfire.

Mandatory evacuations were announced for the fire near Mount Rainier, including the Crystal Mountain ski resort. An air quality warning is in effect in the area until Tuesday night.

People in the region were advised to stay indoors.

And that made it a problem, even though forest fires have been burning elsewhere in the West for several weeks.

"It looks like there has been a devastating impact on the gorge", she said, speaking of the renowned Columbia River Gorge, famous for its hiking and spectacular vistas.

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