Massive wildfire in Oregon grows to 10,000+ acres as smoke drifts into Ohio

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TROUTDALE, OR (KOIN/AP) – A growing Oregon wildfire covered parts of Portland’s metropolitan area Tuesday with ash and prompted the shutdown of a lengthy stretch of highway through the state’s scenic Columbia River Gorge.

It was one of dozens of wildfires burning in western U.S. states that sent smoke into cities from Seattle to Denver – prompting health warnings and cancellations of outdoor activities for children by many school districts.  Smoke even drifted as far as central Ohio Tuesday morning, according to NBC4 meteorologist David Mazza.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire-fighting, said 80 large fires were burning on 2,200 square miles in nine Western states.

The seven-square mile fire east of Portland forced hundreds of home evacuations. Embers from the fire drifted in the air across the Columbia River – sparking blazes in neighboring Washington state.

The wildfire grew rapidly late Monday and overnight, giving authorities just minutes to warn residents on the Oregon side of the river to leave their homes.

A closure of one section of Interstate 84 because of thick smoke and falling ash was extended 50 miles east of Portland because flames reached the roadway, said Dave Thompson, a spokesman for Oregon’s Department of Transportation.

“If it jumps the road, you’d be driving through a wall of flame,” he said. “It’s just not safe.”

People in Oregon covered their faces to shield themselves from the smoke and the ashes falling on them.

” You can’t really stand outside without getting rained on” by ash, said Joanna Fisher as she walked to work at a Troutdale, Oregon naturopathic clinic with Calla Wanser, who was wearing a red bandana around her mouth to keep the ash out of her lungs.

Evacuation orders:

The 3 levels of evacuations are in place for residents in the Cascade Locks. Level 1 means get ready, Level 2 means get set and Level 3 means go now.Warrendale – Level 3 GO! Dodson – Level 3 GO! Larch Mountain- Level 3 GO! Latourell- Level 3 GO! Bridal Veil – Level 3 GO! East Corbett – Level 3 GO! Corbett – Level 2 Be Set. Springdale- Level 2 Be Set.

Level 3 evacuations also include all 14 miles of Larch Mountain Road., Haines Road, Alex Barr Road, Thompson Mill Road, Brower Road, Toll Road and Palmer Mill Road.

The Red Cross has a shelter at the Skamania County Fairgrounds and opened another at the Yoshida Event Center at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.

Wahclella Falls, Tooth Rock trail head, exit 41 and the Columbia River Highway bike trail are closed to the public.

Officials also closed I-84 in both directions between Troutdale and Cascade Locks. ODOT said westbound traffic will need to get off the highway at exit 62 in Hood River and eastbound traffic at exit 17 in Troutdale. Officials said residents evacuating are allowed to travel on I-84.

Eastbound traffic can take Highway 26 over Mt. Hood or OR 35 and westbound traffic can cross the river and take SR 14 west to I-205.

The Bridge of the Gods is also closed to southbound traffic.

The Hood River School District’s Cascade Locks Elementary and all Corbett School District schools are closed on Tuesday as are all Stevenson-Carson schools.

WHAT TO DO WHEN EVACUATING:

  • Follow the directions of law enforcement personnel
  • Cover-up to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear long pants and long- sleeved shirt (preferably 100 percent cotton), heavy shoes/boots, cap, dry bandanna for face cover, goggles or glasses
  • Locate your pets and take them with you

WHAT TO DO IF YOU BECOME TRAPPED:

While in your vehicle:

  • Stay calm
  • Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation
  • Close all vehicle windows and vents
  • Cover yourself with wool blanket or jacket
  • Lie on vehicle floor
  • Use your cell phone to advise officials-call 911

While on foot:

  • Stay calm
  • Go to an area clear of vegetation, a ditch or depression on level ground if possible
  • Lie face down, cover up your body
  • Use your cell phone to advise officials-call 911

While in your home:

  • Stay calm, keep your family together
  • Call 911 and inform authorities of your location
  • Fill sinks and tubs with cold water
  • Keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked
  • Stay inside your house

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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