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Cedar Creek Fire, one of 21 fires burning in Oregon, forces evacuations

Multiple wildfires burned throughout Oregon and Washington on Sept. 10, prompting evacuations in some areas. (Video: The Washington Post)
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The Cedar Creek Fire in central Oregon, which has scorched more than 86,000 acres, forced rural residents to flee their homes over the weekend before officials slightly curbed evacuation orders Sunday night for just one of dozens of wildfires burning across the West.

The blaze, about 60 miles east of Eugene, Ore., forced evacuations in Lane and Deschutes counties. It was one wildfire among 21 burning in Oregon, according to the state. Nearly 1,500 Oregonians had been ordered to evacuate their homes, and nearly 6,500 more were told to be “set” to evacuate.

Gov. Kate Brown (D) invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act on Friday in response to the fire, allowing the state fire marshal’s office to assist in the area. She called the growth potential over the weekend “troubling,” concerns that came to fruition.

Fire officials said Sunday that several days of “extreme fire growth” had occurred both to the fire’s east and west, and that firefighters were “focused on protecting homes and infrastructure” in the communities of Oakridge and Westfir.

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Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold said in a video update Sunday that information from firefighters had allowed authorities to lift evacuation orders in many parts of Oakridge and Westfir and move to a Level 2 “set” notice.

The fire began Aug. 1, the result of a lightning storm in the Willamette National Forest.

Harrold told residents that “the reality is, the fire’s going to be out there for a little while,” cautioning people with mobility challenges or pets to consider erring on the safe side. “Maybe it’s best” for those people to remain evacuated, he said.

The weekend evacuations follow warnings last week of “extremely critical” weather in a large swath of the northwestern United States, as well as a busy summer for wildfires. Two people were killed in the Mill Fire in Northern California early this month. In August, four people were killed in the McKinney Fire, California’s largest blaze this year, including a longtime fire lookout.

Forest fires accounted for a quarter of global tree loss in the past 20 years, according to the World Resources Institute. And with greenhouse gas emissions rising, uncontrollable wildfires are expected to intensify. Even with deep cuts to emissions, a U.N. analysis this year projected, the risk of extreme wildfires would rise 14 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2050.