More evacuations ordered as Rowena wildfire crests ridge near The Dalles

ROWENA, Ore. - More residents were told to evacuate late Wednesday night as a wildfire near Rowena crested a ridge west of The Dalles.

The number of newly ordered evacuations was not immediately known.

The fire has grown to 1,900 acres and is burning on steep terrain near Rowena, about 6 miles west of The Dalles. The fire is creeping down close to some homes along Highway 30.

Emergency responders set up a Facebook page for fire information,

Jana Webb went into emergency mode around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"They just put us on a level 3 evacuation," says Webb, "And this is my daughter and son-in-law's home and they're not home. So I was just going in to get a few things and it's come over the hill."

"I got your computer. Computer is in my car already. I got that," Webb told her loved ones by phone.

Not far away at the Pinecrest Mobile Estates, Alex Jara felt he was pretty safe. Then he realized how close the fire had grown in just a matter of hours.

"Now all of a sudden it's behind here. It's a little scarey," said Jara.

Earlier Wednesday evening the Oregon state fire marshal said the fire was threatening about 275 structures and a Level III (Go) evacuation order was issued for 75 homes between the 5500 block of Highway 30 west to the 6200 block of Highway 30. And about 200 homes between the 4800 block of Highway 30 (Exit 82) west to the 5500 block of Highway 30, including Murray's Addition, Foley Lakes, Simonelli Road, Tooley Terrace and Adeline Way were placed on a Level I (Get Ready) evacuation notice.

Fire spokesman Justin de Ruyter says five helicopters dropped water on the blaze as winds gusted to more than 30 mph. He says no homes have burned so far and firefighters planned to work through the night to protect residences.

The fire began in brush Tuesday night and quickly spread to about 200 acres of timber and scrub oak in rocky, steep terrain. The spokesman says it grew on Wednesday but he had no updated figures pending an infrared flight scheduled overnight.

The fire is burning scrub oak, grass and timber. Gov. John Kitzhaber granted a conflagration request, which allows more crews and resources to come to the area and help fight the fire.

State fire marshal spokesman, Rich Hoover, said an Incident Management Team will focus on protecting structures in the area.

Highway 30 is closed between Mosier and Rowena. The Oregon Department of Transportation said the highway will remain closed for the "foreseeable future."

Families near the Gorge are watching the flames move closer and closer to their homes and many are trying to decide if they should stay or should go.

The American Red Cross has moved its shelter for those displaced by the fire from Mosier grange hall to Dry Hollow Elementary in The Dalles at 1314 E. 19th.

It's unclear how the fire started.

KATU Meteorologist Rhonda Shelby said temperatures will be cooler on Thursday, but winds are expected to gust 15-25 mph.

KATU's Joe English, Bob Heye and The Associated Press contributed to this story.