TROUTDALE, Ore. — The Latest on Western wildfires (all times local):
Oregon forestry officials say the state’s wildfires have scorched at least 822 square miles (2,128 square. kilometers) . That’s an area more than half the size of the state of Rhode Island.
Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Jim Gersbach said Wednesday that the estimated cost to fight the fires so far is at least $238.5 million dollars.
Oregon wildfires burned 885 square miles (2,292 square kilometers) in 2015.
The state’s wildfire season usually ends in mid-October when soaking rains arrive.
Gersbach says this year’s fire season began later than normal this year because of a wet winter and spring.
He says the brush, trees and downed timber that fuel fires are now dry and ready to burn hot when ignited.
Some evacuation orders have been lifted in populated areas near Montana wildfires but many are still burning and officials said residents should be prepared for some of to last for at least another month.
After a weekend of significant fire growth across the state, cooler weather gave crews a bit of a break.
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.
In Glacier National Park, heavy smoke from a wildfire caused poor air quality but also helped stifle the fire’s growth.
In northwestern Montana, members of an Amish community evacuated before 10 homes and 30 outbuildings were destroyed were staying with other families.
Darinda Yoder told the Missoulian residents were able retrieve schoolbooks and desks.
Yoder says Classes will resume in a barn for the school’s 27 students.
A large wildfire burning in the Columbia River Gorge has destroyed a small home and four other structures.
Oregon State Fire Marshal spokesman Damon Simmons said Wednesday the buildings are in the same general location but he was not sure of the precise location. There were no injuries.
The blaze has charred more than 50 square miles (129 square kilometers). The fire is not percent contained and continues to cast a haze of smoke across the Portland metropolitan area.
Evacuation notices are in place in several communities east of Portland.
The fire began Saturday afternoon.
Oregon State Police Capt. Bill Fugate (FEW-gate) says the prime suspect is a 15-year-old boy who was playing with fireworks.
He says evidence has been seized and the boy’s parents have cooperated with detectives.
No charges have been filed.
People in Oregon covered their faces with scarves to keep choking ash from wildfires from filling their lungs and wiped the soot from windshields.
Some long-time residents say what they’re doing similar to they had to do in 1980 during the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens when ash poured over the region.
The growing blaze is east of Portland, Oregon in the scenic Columbia River Gorge.
It is one of dozens of wildfires burning in western U.S. states that sent smoke into cities from Seattle to Denver. The fires have prompted health warnings and cancellations of outdoor activities for children by many school districts.
The 16-square mile (41-square kilometers) fire east of Portland forced hundreds of home evacuations.
Embers from the fire drifted in the air across the Columbia River and sparked blazes in neighboring Washington state.