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Wildfire near John Day, Oregon, grows by 15 percent; crews protect scores of homes


PORTLAND, Oregon — A large wildfire near John Day, Oregon, has jumped in size, and firefighters are concerned about explosive growth Thursday afternoon.

Infrared mapping Thursday morning showed the fire has burned 134 square miles — a 15 percent increase since Tuesday.

Local fire departments from around Grant County were pressed into duty Wednesday to protect scores of homes. Most crews were staffed by volunteers who worked through the night, The Oregonian reported (http://is.gd/tqS9CE).

The fire caused alarm in Prairie City, a town of about 900 that is 15 miles east of John Day. Mayor Jim Hamsher asked residents there to water dry yards to guard against burning embers.

Emergency radio traffic Wednesday night reflected the struggle faced by crews, the newspaper reported. At one point, a commander asked for four additional water tankers — and was told none was available. He asked dispatchers to find some.

Local crews got help late Wednesday when engines arrived from elsewhere in Oregon. The state fire marshal's office ordered 15 engines and crews from Deschutes, Clackamas and Washington counties.

The forecast calls for high temperatures, low humidity and winds. Crews had been told to expect "explosive fire growth" Thursday afternoon, Traci Weaver, public information officer for the Canyon Creek complex, said.

The Canyon Creek complex started as two smaller fires ignited by lightning Aug. 12. The blaze has wrecked 39 homes and more than 50 barns, shops and other outbuildings.

Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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