By News-Register staff • 

Local firefighting crews head to Estacada

GRANTS PASS — Gov. John Kitzhaber has authorized state aid to help fight a wildfire east of Estacada that threatens dozens of homes.

The fire in the Mount Hood National Forest is one of two new wildfires that started over the weekend and are threatening scattered rural homes in western Oregon, where forests are dry and the weather has been hot.

About 40 homes were under the most urgent evacuation advisory, and residents of more than 120 other homes have been told to be ready to leave if necessary, Estacada Fire Chief Bob Morrisey said. Several campgrounds and RV parks have been evacuated.

The governor's order authorizes the state fire marshal to send structural firefighters and equipment to assist local departments.

The Yamhill County Task Force deployed at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and is being led by Battalion Chief Gert Zoutendijk of the Newberg Fire Department. The team consists of:

. . . Dayton Fire District: One water tender with two firefighters.

. . . Dundee Fire Department: One brush rig with two firefighters.

. . . New Carlton Fire District/Lafayette Fire Department: One engine with four firefighters.

. . . McMinnville Fire Department: One brush rig with two firefighters.

. . . Newberg: One engine with four firefighters.

"The state Fire Marshal's Office called Monday night (about 7 p.m.) and said they wanted resources there this morning," said Dundee Fire Chief John Stock, chief of the Yamhill County Fire Defense Board.

The state specifies the type of equipment and how many pieces are needed, in addition to personnel numbers, when it a request is made.

"This was the smoothest activation I've ever dealt with," Stock said. "We were given plenty of lead time."

He said there is a pre-dedicated list of available equipment and personnel that are available if a conflagration is declared, and when the call goes out for help, it's Stock's job to determine the equipment and personnel that is available to go from each of the Yamhill Valley fire agencies.

An RV park, a campground and an off-road vehicle area have been closed. About 40 homes are under evacuation notices, and residents of about 120 more have been told to get ready to leave.

The fire area is now about 5.5 square miles, nearly 3,600 acres. Authorities say they suspect a target shooter in a gravel pit set it off Saturday.

Some scattered homes along the Rogue River west of Grants Pass are threatened by a wildfire there.

In southwest Oregon, a fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest about 15 miles west of Grants Pass grew to nearly 3 square miles, or about 2,000 acres. Bulldozer crews started building fire line on the northeastern flank to protect some scattered homes along the Rogue River in the Picket Creek area, where Josephine County has warned residents to be ready to leave, fire spokesman Scott Blower said.

More crews and equipment were dispatched to fight the fire. The cause was under investigation, but there were no reports of lightning over the weekend, making it likely it was human-caused.

Four large air tankers flew repeated sorties Sunday on the blaze near Grants Pass, particularly around the top of Onion Mountain, where a U.S. Forest Service lookout and communications towers are located. Forest spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said the threat has diminished.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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