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Third House Burns In The Dalles Fire

An Oregon wildfire burning outside The Dalles in the Columbia River Gorge is believed to have burned a third home, but fire crews also reported progress Tuesday in fighting the blaze that threatens several dozen other homes, a spokesman said.

The cost of fighting the Government Flat Complex fires has already topped $1 million.

Fire spokesman Dave Morman said late Tuesday he was getting reports that one additional residence has burned. Two homes and five other structures burned earlier.

Tuesday’s lighter winds helped fire crews make progress on the northeast end of the fire, where more than 50 homes remained under an evacuation order. The fire has burned across 10 square miles about 10 miles southwest of The Dalles.

In previous days, the winds that make the gorge a destination for windsurfers have made firefighters’ jobs more difficult.

With 714 personnel and seven helicopters fighting the fire, the cost has hit $1.4 million after four days, Morman said. Many are structural fire crews called in from surrounding counties after the governor declared the fires a conflagration.

Helicopters used to douse spot fires and air tankers used to stop the spread of flames during the early stages of a fire are generally the most expensive part of fighting wildfires.

Nationally, federal agencies have spent more than $1 billion so far, about half last year’s total of $1.9 billion, according to the National Interagency fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

The Government Flat fire burned within a quarter-mile of the water treatment plant providing drinking water for the city’s 12,000 residents, but crews were stationed to protect the facility, he said.

The fire started from lightning that ignited three separate blazes on Friday. Two of those have been brought under control, but the third, known as the Blackburn fire, continued to spread through timberlands, ranches and orchards interspersed with canyons on the northern flanks of Mount Hood.

Elsewhere, thunderstorms were predicted for Wednesday in southwestern Oregon, where firefighters continue to make progress on blazes burning in timber.

Evacuation alerts were lifted on the Douglas Complex, made up of four fires burning across 76 square miles, seven miles north of Glendale. Containment was at 78 percent, with full containment projected for Sept. 1.

The Big Windy Complex remained 20 percent contained as it burned across 36 square miles of federal forest in the Rogue River Canyon 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass. Whitewater rafters were able to float through the fire area, but the primary shuttle route, Bear Camp Road, remained closed.

The Labrador fire along the Illinois river 13 miles northwest of Cave Junction has burned 3.2 square miles, with no containment in sight.

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