THE DALLES, Ore. -- More homes were evacuated Thursday near the Government Flat wildfire complex near The Dalles as it grew beyond 11,000 acres.
Officials said they expected rapid spreading and extreme fire behavior over the course of the day. Also, ash flakes were reported as far away as Beaverton.
"It literally looked like someone was dumping an ashtray from the sky, it looked like it was sort of snowing but obviously wasn't," said KGW viewer Joel Gross. "It didn't seem like something you wanted to be breathing in." (See photo of ash at right.)
More than 800 firefighters and support personnel were battling the complex, which is made up of the Blackburn, Government Flat and Wells fires. The Blackburn fire was only 15 percent contained Thursday, while the other two were fully contained.
Background: Wildfire near The Dalles 'getting ugly again'
Several homes were placed on Level II and Level III evacuation orders in neighborhoods near the fire lines. Level II means: Make final preparations and get and set to evacuate, and Level III means: Evacuate immediately!
Corina Cameron and others who live in the area said it's been a tense week of watching and waiting. "I’m constantly on standby, just in case," she said.
Check here for specific updates: Government Flats Complex
"It's been a surreal experience for my wife and myself and we’ve been very skittish," said Lee Weinstein who lives near where the fire is burning. "On the other, hand we have been concerned about neighbors and everybody else who has been impacted by this.”
Four homes and nine outbuildings were destroyed in the wildfires.
Strong west winds were expected Thursday afternoon with gusts of 20 mph or more, posing additional challenges for firefighters.