High winds feed new wildfire on Mt. Hood

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A new wildfire in the Mount Hood wilderness has grown to at least 1,500 acres, fueled by high winds fanning the flames.

A helicopter crew and smoke jumpers were fighting the Dollar Lake Complex Fire on the north side of the mountain. Firefighters said their greatest challenge continued to be the heavy smoke and steep terrain, which was making it nearly impossible for them to get close enough to build a fire line.

Fire officials said the all the smoke also made it hard to tell how big the fire actually is. They estimated that in the wildfire's first five hours, it grew to at least 500 acres. Monday night, it was being described as at least 1,500 acres.

"We don't have a containment line yet. We have very few resources on the fire," explained Christine Arredondo, a spokeswoman for the Mt. Hood National Forest. "It's very steep terrain and we want to make sure our firefighters are safe."

Authorities believe lightning ignited the fire Sunday and then high winds helped it suddenly explode in size on Monday.

So far, no buildings have been threatened by the flames, but the fire continues to grow closer to areas with vacation homes and other structures.

Authorities closed a stretch of Highway 26 on the Warm Springs Reservation as a precaution Monday and then scaled back the closure to only include truck traffic on Tuesday. A detour was set up putting truckers on US97 to Biggs Junction and then onto I-84.

Cloud Cap Tilly Jane and Lawrence Lake Campgrounds have been closed as a precaution, along with the Vista Ridge, Gnarl Ridge, Elk Cove, Pinnacle trails.

The Dollar Lake Complex Fire was one of many new wildfires currently spreading across Oregon and Washington. Lightning storms started last week and began igniting fires across dry forestland.

The largest wildfire in Oregon is burning in rangeland west of Fossil and the newest wildfire popped up in the Cascades, just outside Bend on Monday night.