More evacuations ordered in Columbia River Gorge

Strengthening winds on a wildfire in the Columbia Gorge on Thursday prompted fire bosses to order more scattered rural homes evacuated in rugged canyonlands on the northern flank of Mount Hood.

The Blackburn fire, part of the Government Flat complex burning 10 miles southwest of The Dalles, remained at 15 percent containment after growing to 17 square miles and burning a fourth house on Wednesday.

The Oregon Department of Forestry said residents of an unknown number of homes along Ketchum Road and Vensel Road were given the word to leave shortly after noon on Thursday.

Spokeswoman Mindy Sherieb said with winds picking up in the afternoon, fire bosses wanted to give people plenty of time to leave.

Residents of homes along other roads threading between the canyons were told to be ready to go.

Sherieb said firefighters held the lines on the north, south and east flanks, but strong afternoon winds were pushing the fire forward on the west side, where it was moving into the Mount Hood National Forest. Winds were expected to gust to 25 mph, fanning the fire front to the point where heat from the fire creates strong updrafts, forcing firefighters to retreat.

"It's going to challenge and test some of the lines we've had in for a while, and it will challenge some of the lines we just put in," she said.

Meanwhile, thunderstorms moved into southwestern Oregon Thursday morning, bringing heavy rain and lightning. Five new fires were reported from dry lighting on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, with the biggest about 20 acres.

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