These wildfires are growing in the Columbia River Gorge and across Oregon

By Meagan Cuthill (OPB) and Jeff Thompson (OPB)
July 26, 2023 6:32 p.m.

Just over a month into a dry and hot summer, first responders in Oregon and Southwest Washington are fighting four large wildfires. High temperatures and low humidity are expected to last at least through the weekend.

Bedrock Fire


The Bedrock Fire, burning on the Willamette National Forest east of Eugene, had grown to more than 6,000 acres by Wednesday morning.

The Bedrock Fire burns on the Willamette National Forest east of Eugene, Ore., in this provided photo from the U.S. Forest Service, July 2023.

The Bedrock Fire burns on the Willamette National Forest east of Eugene, Ore., in this provided photo from the U.S. Forest Service, July 2023.

Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Hot, dry weather and gusty winds have contributed to the fire’s spread since it began Saturday. Fire officials say high temperatures and low humidity are likely through at least the rest of the week.

Smoke from the fire continues to spread into Central Oregon, where the National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert. Air quality could intermittently reach unhealthy levels through at least Thursday morning.

Check current air quality levels where you live.

Officials are asking people to avoid the area of Fall Creek, where the fire originated. They’re also asking for help determining how the fire started. Anyone with information, photos or videos from their visit to the area last Saturday should contact the U.S Forest Service.

Newell Road Fire

A fire in south-central Washington’s Klickitat County started last Friday afternoon and grew to nearly 60,000 acres by Wednesday morning. By that point, crews were able to report 40% containment on the perimeter of the Newell Road Fire.

Fire officials said lower temperatures and higher overnight humidity helped them get a handle on the northern edge of the fire.

Evacuations have been in place since last weekend in and around the communities of Bickleton, Roosevelt and Cleveland. The Red Cross has set up emergency shelters at Goldendale High School and Grandview Middle School.

The Newell Road Fire has also threatened renewable energy projects, livestock and wildlife. Local firefighters and landowners have been working to protect property and keep the fire from reaching Washington’s largest solar farm and the Roosevelt Regional Landfill. The fire has burned underneath some wind turbines but officials say those are flame-resistant.

State Route 14 is closed for nearly 60 miles near the fire, except to local traffic.


Golden Fire

A new wildfire sparked in Klamath County over the weekend. The Golden Fire has burned dozens of homes and caused area residents to lose 911 service and internet, state officials said Tuesday.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal said preliminary damage assessments from the Golden Fire east of Klamath Falls showed that 43 residences near the town of Bonanza were destroyed. More than 40 outbuildings were also consumed by fire.

The fire marshal said most of the structures are believed to have burned Saturday, when the fire started and spread rapidly as a result of hot weather and gusty winds. Crews were unable to access the structures before Tuesday because of unsafe conditions, the fire marshal said.

Firefighters work the Golden Fire in Klamath County, Ore., Monday, July 24, 2023, in this photo provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Firefighters work the Golden Fire in Klamath County, Ore., Monday, July 24, 2023, in this photo provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Forestry, Klamath-Lake District

Since it began Saturday, the Golden Fire has burned more than 2,000 acres and is 15% contained. Gov. Tina Kotek invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act for the fire on Sunday.

The fire also significantly damaged a fiber optic line affecting most of the 8,200 residents in neighboring Lake County, causing a loss of 911, internet and phone service. The Lake County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency Monday because of the outage and said an estimate for restoring the line wasn’t yet known.

911 calls are being rerouted to Klamath County, and county emergency officials have been working with multiple state agencies to restore emergency connections, the commissioners said in statement. Temporary internet towers have also been put up and are providing services.

Fire crews also have been coordinating with utility companies that are working to repair damaged infrastructure, fire officials said Tuesday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office said. According to initial information, the blaze may have started on private property being used to grow marijuana illegally.

Flat Fire

Meanwhile, Oregon’s largest fire continues burning in the state’s southwest corner. As of Wednesday morning, the Flat Fire in Curry County, two miles southeast of Agness, had grown to more than 23,000 acres and was only 3% contained.

The fire began July 15. It is listed as human-caused and is under further investigation. Nearly 1,600 people make up the response team currently fighting the fire.

A Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation notice is still in place from Agness to Quosatana Creek and for the areas of Oak Flat, Old House Creek Road and Spud Road. Additionally, there are closures in the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest due to the fire.

The estimated containment date for the Flat Fire is Sept. 1.

Northwest News Network correspondent Courtney Flatt and The Associated Press contributed to this story.