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Oregon wildfire forces evacuations, destroys structures

Date: 15-Jul-14
Country: USA
Author: Shelby Sebens

A fast-growing wildfire in south-central Oregon has forced more than 100 people to evacuate their homes and destroyed structures, officials said on Monday.

The blaze is the latest to strike in the drought-parched Western states as the summer fire season heats up.

The Oregon fire comes as California firefighters battle a 4,400-acre conflagration in a remote part of the state believed linked to an illegal marijuana growing operation, and smaller fires continue to burn throughout the West.

The so-called Moccasin Hill fire erupted Sunday afternoon in the Moccasin Hill subdivision north of Sprague River in south- central Oregon, forcing the Klamath County Sheriff's Department to evacuate people in nearby homes.

No injuries have been reported from the fire, Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Rod Nichols said. It has spread to 2,900 acres less than 24 hours after it began.

Nichols said he expects an update later on Monday from firefighters in the field on how many homes and other structures have been destroyed as well as how much of the fire has been contained.

The cause of the Moccasin Hill fire is under investigation, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry's blog. The fire is burning on private land in heavy timber and brush in the rural community northeast of Klamath Falls.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Sprague River Community Center for evacuees.

In California, 1,800 firefighters battled a fire in Shasta County in the northern part of the state near the city of Redding, the state fire department said.

Its location a remote canyon, along with high winds and extremely dry conditions due to ongoing drought has made the so-called Bully Fire difficult to fight, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said Monday.

Shortly after the fire broke out on Friday, officials arrested Freddie Alexander Smoke III for starting the blaze while tending to an illegal marijuana growing operation, CalFire spokeswoman Cheryl Buliavac said in a news release.

Smoke, 37, was in the area delivering soil amendments to enrich the land where the marijuana was growing, when exhaust from the large rental truck he was driving sparked the blaze, Buliavac said.

"Smoke was arrested for allegedly recklessly causing a fire and marijuana cultivation, both felonies," she said.

(Additional reporting and writing by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Cynthia Osterman and Eric Walsh)

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