The Latest: Coast Guard closes Columbia River due to fire
Posted September 5
Updated September 6
TROUTDALE, Ore. — The Latest on wildfires burning across the U.S. West (all times local):
The U.S. Coast Guard has closed the Columbia River to all vessel traffic east of Portland, Oregon, because of wildfire activity in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Coast Guard said Tuesday the closure affecting 20 miles of the river would be in effect overnight to protect personnel and boats from potential hazards created by falling hot ash and firefighting aircraft landing on the water.
The section of the Columbia River was closed after the Captain of the Port deemed it unsafe for vessels to travel the river from Reed Island to the Bonneville Dam.
The blaze that began Saturday also has closed an interstate highway and forced hundreds to leave their homes.
The Coast Guard says some vessel traffic has been impacted and that the need for the closure will be re-evaluated Wednesday morning.
Oregon fisheries managers have released thousands of hatchery salmon months early in response to a large wildfire raging in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday it released the fish into the Columbia River to reduce demands on water and equipment.
Workers released about 600,000 tule fall Chinook salmon Tuesday and four ponds of fall Chinook salmon Monday night.
The three fish hatchery facilities in Cascade Locks were evacuated over Labor Day weekend. The facilities have been used as a firefighting and staging area. Supplies at the hatcheries, including water and power, are helping wildfire efforts.
Officials say all hatchery workers are safe. No structures have been damaged.
The facilities are rearing about six million fish, mostly coho and Chinook salmon.
Authorities say a 15-year-old boy is the suspect in a large blaze burning east of Portland, Oregon, that was likely caused by fireworks.
The Oregon State Police said in a statement Tuesday that the teen from Vancouver, Washington, and others may have been using fireworks on a popular trail in the Columbia River Gorge area.
The blaze that has closed an interstate highway and forced hundreds to flee began Saturday. Authorities say the boy was interviewed in the parking lot of the trailhead.
State police say the investigation is continuing. No arrests or formal charges have been made.
A portion of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state has been closed because of its proximity to a nearby wildfire.
The National Park Service says the northeast portion of the park was closed on Tuesday afternoon.
A wildfire burning outside the east boundary of the park has scorched more than 29 square miles (75 square kilometers).
The Park Service says all the trails on the east side of the park are closed. People at the White River Campground are being encouraged to leave.
Fire officials say an Oregon wildfire in the scenic Columbia River Gorge has grown to nearly 16 square miles and is threatening homes.
Residents of about 400 homes have been forced to evacuate, while others have been warned to get ready.
A fire official told reporters Tuesday that no homes have been lost so far, but crews were still assessing the damage. Lt. Damon Simmons, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, says the blaze spread overnight but was calming down as crews scrambled to get a handle on it.
Firefighters also are attacking the fire by air when smoky conditions allow.
More than 30 miles of Interstate 84 running east of Portland, Oregon, was closed. A state official says it's unclear when it will reopen.
Multnomah County has declared a state of emergency over the fire that started Saturday.
(This item has been corrected to show that Damon Simmons is a spokesman for the Oregon Fire Marshal's office)
Authorities say a fast-moving wildfire in Utah has destroyed at least five homes and forced more than 1,000 people to evacuate.
Parts of two highways were also closed Tuesday morning as black smoke rolled over the roads.
High winds fed the blaze near a neighborhood of well-appointed homes nestled in the foothills about 30 miles (64 kilometers) north of Salt Lake City.
Two elementary schools near the fire were evacuated as a precaution.
Authorities say the fire has consumed about 500 acres (2 square kilometers).
The U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to assign 200 active-duty soldiers to help fight a wildfire in Washington state.
Civilian firefighting commanders said Tuesday the soldiers from Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, will undergo four days of training.
Then they will be sent to a complex of 14 wildfires in the Umpqua National Forest that have burned 47 square miles (120 square kilometers).
The soldiers will join about 1,000 firefighters already at the site.
The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire-fighting, says 80 large fires are burning on 2,200 square miles (5,700 square kilometers) in nine Western U.S. states.
The military has already dispatched three C-130s to drop fire-retardant slurry and two RC-26 surveillance aircraft to help fight Western fires.
Firefighters have increased containment of a big Los Angeles wildfire from 30 percent to 70 percent.
The fire in the Verdugo Mountains burned around 11 square miles (28 square kilometers) since it erupted Friday and was spread by shifting winds. Crews working the blaze Tuesday are focusing on smoldering hotspots and extending containment lines.
Los Angeles fire spokesman Erik Scott says the number of destroyed single-family residences has increased to a total of five.
A growing wildfire near Portland has shut down a lengthy stretch of highway through the scenic Columbia River Gorge and rained ash down on the Oregon city.
Smoke from blazes choked the U.S. West on Tuesday from Seattle to Denver, leading to health warnings and road closures. Many school districts canceled sports practices and recess because of poor air quality.
The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire-fighting, says 80 large fires are burning on 2,200 square miles (5,700 square kilometers) in nine Western states.
The 7-square-mile (18-square-kilometer) fire east of Portland forced hundreds of evacuations and sent embers jumping over the Columbia River, sparking blazes in Washington state.
The wildfire grew rapidly late Monday and overnight, forcing authorities to scramble to get people out of communities in just minutes on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.
Wind-driven flames, hot temperatures and dry conditions are hampering firefighters across the West even after Labor Day, the unofficial end to a summer of devastating wildfires.
The dozens of fires burning across the West and Canada have blanketed the air with choking smoke from Oregon, where ash fell on the town of Cascade Locks, to Colorado, where health officials issued an air quality advisory alert.
A 14-square-mile (36-square-kilometer) fire in Montana's Glacier National Park emptied the park's busiest tourist spot as wind gusts drove the blaze toward the doorstep of a century-old lodge.
Outside California's Yosemite National Park, a wind-fueled fire made its way deeper into a grove of 2,700-year-old giant sequoia trees. Officials said the fire had gone through about half the grove, and had not killed any trees.