Oregon Public Broadcasting

Helicopters and fire crews worked to stop a growing wild fire in the Columbia River Gorge that's burned about 200 acres and threatened 170 homes.

The fire is burning between Hood River and The Dalles.

The fire began Tuesday night after 9 p.m. Fire officials say the cause is unknown.

Tommy Schroeder, a lieutenant with the Oregon State Fire Marshall's Office Incident Management Team, says 70 homes are under a mandatory evacuation.

"Winds are definitely a challenge right now," he says. "Couple the winds with the dry vegetation and steep terrain and we have a trifecta of really rough working conditions."

So far there have been no reports of any burned structures.

Earlier Wednesday, Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a Conflagration Act, allowing counties from around the state to assist in fighting the fire.

At least three helicopters dumped water on the blaze, aiding the efforts of some 60 firefighters on the ground.

"We're trying to get a stop on it so that it doesn't advance any further," Schroeder says.

"Right now the Oregon Department of Forestry I hear is sending a team out, which means well get a lot more personnel on the ground to help with the actual wildland portion of it, which in turn will protect the structures," he said.

The Dalles is about 7 miles from the fire, as the crow flies.

"We have concerns that it's heading that direction, but we're cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to get a stop on it before it gets to be a real concern," Schroeder says.

The Red Cross set up a shelter in near-by Mosier.

Julia Bishop, a volunteer with the agency, says so far no one's shown up.

"Not everybody wants to sleep in a communal situation and if you have a relative or a friend and you can go sleep on their couch you'd probably go there first," Bishop says. "But not everybody has that choice, so we're here if they don't," he said.

Bishops says the shelter will stay open as long as there's a need.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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