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Aug 22, 8:18 PM EDT

Wildfire burns 5 homes in southwestern Oregon

BROOKINGS, Ore. (AP) -- Authorities on Tuesday designated a wildfire in southwestern Oregon as the top firefighting priority nationwide, a spokesman for the Incident Fire Management system said.

Five homes have burned in the 153-square-mile (396-square-kilometer) blaze near Brookings, a coastal town near the California border, said Greg Heule, a spokesman for the team, which collaborates with various federal and state firefighting agencies and releases information about blazes around the country.

More than 700 people are under mandatory evacuation and another 1,000 are under an evacuation warning, he said.

The lightning-sparked fire began more than a month ago, but has grown rapidly in the past week with low humidity and strong winds. The weather, however, may start cooperating in the coming days, Heule said.

"Yesterday the fire didn't move very much at all and today it's pretty much the same. It gives our firefighters an opportunity to get in there on this and make some progress," he said in a telephone interview.

There are nearly 800 firefighters on scene and many more crews are streaming in to battle the flames.

No one has been injured in the fire.

It is burning in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in some of the same area affected by a notorious fire in 2002 that remains seared in the memory of those living along the Oregon-California border. That blaze burned 800 square miles (2,072 square kilometers).

The terrain is rugged in the remote area, but the flames have reached to within six miles of Brookings, which is about six miles (10 kilometers) from the California border. Highway 101 remains open, he added.

August is peak wildfire season in the Pacific Northwest, and firefighters are busy throughout Oregon.

In the central part of state, a wildfire in the Three Sisters Wilderness has scorched 18 square miles (46 square kilometers). An evacuation warning went out Monday for an area that includes Black Butte Ranch, a resort community.

Last week, hundreds of people living near the Western-themed town of Sisters were advised to evacuate. Fire managers worry that winds will push the fire out of the wilderness and into populated areas.


Information from: KDRV-TV,

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