The Latest: Oregon wildfire grows to 70 square miles

PORTLAND, Ore. | The Latest: Oregon wildfire grows to 70 square miles

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Latest on fires in the Pacific Northwest (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

A wind-whipped wildfire that started Tuesday in a rural farming area east of Portland, Oregon, has now burned 70 square miles (181 kilometers) and prompted additional evacuations.

Substation fire spokesman Stefan Myers said Wednesday evening that strong winds were continuing to push the blaze, prompting evacuations farther east.

The blaze is burning along the Columbia River Gorge about 85 miles (137 kilometers) east of Portland.

Myers says firefighters were focused on protecting homes and lives and that additional fire crews were headed to the area.

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed Highway 97 late Wednesday afternoon from the Biggs Junction to the interchange with Highway 197 because of the fire.

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4:45 p.m.

One person has been found dead near a tractor in a field that was consumed by a wildfire in Oregon.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday the body was found a short distance from the burned tractor.

The person’s identity has not been released.

It’s believed the person was trying to use the tractor to create a fire line to stop the blaze.

The fire has burned 56 square miles (145 square kilometers) in a rural area along the Columbia River Gorge about 85 miles (137 kilometers) east of Portland.

The blaze in the rural farming area has forced dozens of households to evacuate and destroyed one home.

The Pacific Northwest fire season is expected to be worse than normal, with drought conditions in many areas.

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3:20 p.m.

A rapidly spreading fire in Oregon has knocked out power to some people because of a burned transmission line.

The grass fire east of Portland took out a 115-kilovolt power line southeast of the city of The Dalles that’s owned by the Bonneville Power Administration.

BPA spokesman Kevin Wingert says crews have mostly restored service Wednesday.

The power transmitted through the line is sold by BPA to several different utilities in the immediate area and it wasn’t immediately clear how many customers were affected.

The blaze in the rural farming area has forced dozens of households to evacuate and destroyed one home.

It doesn’t bode well for a Pacific Northwest fire season that’s expected to be worse than normal, with drought conditions in many areas.

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2:15 p.m.

Two homes near Ruch, Oregon, are being evacuated as a wildfire started by lightning spreads.

Thirty-three more homeowners were told to be ready to go Wednesday due to the growing fire near the California border.

The fire is burning in Jackson County, about 270 miles (434 kilometers) south of Portland, on a mix of private land and forest in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

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8:30 a.m.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to a wildfire burning in the north-central part of the state.

The action announced early Wednesday allows the Oregon fire marshal to mobilize resources from around the state to protect homes.

The fire burning in two counties east of The Dalles expanded overnight to more than 45 square miles (117 square kilometers).

One home has burned, along with some other structures.

Roughly 75 households have been told to evacuate.

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7:25 a.m.

Authorities say a small fire that prompted evacuation notices for 700 homes near Spokane Valley began in a building and then spread to grass and trees.

KREM-TV reports that the so-called Upriver Beacon Fire died down a bit overnight, and all of the most urgent evacuation notices had been downgraded by Wednesday morning.

The state Department of Natural Resources has been helping fight the fire with water drops from a tanker plane, and more state firefighting teams have been arriving after Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste approved their mobilization Tuesday night.

The fire has burned about one-third of a square mile (0.8 square kilometers) and has damaged some electrical transmission lines.

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By Associated Press