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Crews Aim To Make Gains On Gorge Fire

<p>A fire burns along the Columbia River south of Highway 14 in Washington state Wednesday afternoon.</p>

Washington State Department of Transportation


A fire burns along the Columbia River south of Highway 14 in Washington state Wednesday afternoon.

With winds dying down, crews are hoping to make significant gains Thursday on a 24,000-acre wildfire burning on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Active fires are burning in grass and sagebrush in several steep canyons, said Ron Fryer, a fire information officer with the Southeast Washington Incident Management Team.

About 275 firefighters braved strong winds as the Highway 8 fire near Roosevelt, Washington grew Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, officials estimated it was 50 percent contained. Four helicopters and three airplanes are aiding ground crews.

"The winds have died down considerably, so crews should be able to get a lot of work done today, so they’re going to hit it hard with ground crews and aircraft," Fryer said.

Mandatory evacuations are still in place for about 25 homes north of Roosevelt.

On Tuesday, fire officials ordered the entire town of Roosevelt to be evacuated, but those orders were lifted Wednesday morning.

Images of Roosevelt show scorched earth blacked from the fire practically leading right up to some homes' backyards.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.