Fire grows near Warm Springs; 40 homes evacuated

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) A fire that spread rapidly in windy weather on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Central Oregon has led to more evacuations.

The fire began Saturday and surged Sunday afternoon when it started small "spot" fires in the grass, sagebrush and juniper that marks the high-desert reservation south of Mount Hood, and then winds kicked up to push the flames.

On Monday morning, shifting winds pushed the fire in several directions.

"It's growing everywhere," Clay Penhollow, a fire information officer, said.

The fire caused two sets of evacuations: 200 people told to leave Saturday but allowed to go home Sunday and then 120 people from 40 homes in two subdivisions told to leave late Sunday.

Authorities were watching scattered rural residences, but the fire had passed by a reservation resort without causing damage, Penhollow said.

"Otherwise everything else seems to be in pretty good shape," he said.

Weather conditions were against the firefighters, and temperatures are expected to peak in the high 90s through Thursday. But the windy conditions were expected to abate Monday night, the National Weather Service said.

One abandoned homestead dwelling was reported burned. Penhollow said it had been used as an outbuilding. No serious injuries were reported.

Fire crews were stationed at the Kah-Nee-Ta resort. The main lodge was already closed by an unrelated fire that started Thursday in the kitchen and caused extensive damage.

The resort has 30 guest rooms, 20 teepees and 51 sites for recreational vehicles.

The Biehler family was vacationing at the resort until they evacuated the area early Sunday morning.

"We could hear the employees pounding on doors, getting everyone out, and they were scrambling," said Melinda Biehler. "Cars were running quickly, starting up and taking off. They're running in pajamas."

Grant Biehler said the the fire was about 200 yards away from them.

"The smoke kind of scared us, you know? The smoke was just out there and then when we were loading up the truck and we saw the fire line on the ridge coming down, you just don't know where else the fire could have been," said Biehler.

About 350 firefighters were on the fire Monday morning, and those ranks were expected to rise to 400 to 450 by Monday night. A federal fire management team was expected to assume control Monday night.

The estimates of the size of the fire grew but were approximations. The federal fire dispatching agency put it at 20,000 acres to 25,000 acres 31-39 square miles.

KATU's Ian Parker contributed to this story.