Oregon wildfires force evacuations

BEND, Ore. — Two wildfires burning northwest of Bend forced the evacuation of dozens of homes and scorched about 300 acres Saturday, authorities said.

The fires were burning about two miles away when authorities issued the evacuation notice for the Saddleback area about 4 p.m. Saturday, said Capt. Shane Nelson of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. The subdivision has about 75 to 100 homes, Nelson said. Later in the evening, sheriff’s office volunteers were evacuating residents on Skyliners Road, west of Bend, Capt. Shane Nelson said in a statement.

Deputies were knocking on doors to warn residents and using an automated phone-alert system.

The Red Cross said it has opened a shelter at a middle school in Bend. Several roads were closed.

Firefighters aggressively attacked the blazes with three hand crews, including elite hot shot crews from Redmond and Prineville, along 13 fire engines, three air tankers, two helicopters, a bulldozer and a water tender.

A fire lookout on Black Butte first spotted the two blazes about 1 p.m., Lisa Clark of the Central Oregon Interagency dispatch Center told KTVZ-TV.

Clark urged people to stay away from the area of the blazes.

“We’ve got a lot of firefighters responding, and we need for them to be able to get in and have their work unimpeded,” Clark said.

The blazes were burning in a mix of Deschutes National Forest and private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, according to the dispatch center.

Experts have predicted an early start to wildfire season in central Oregon because of dry conditions. The fire dispatch center said the large logs and woody debris in the forest is as dry as if it was July.

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