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Crews work to halt spread of Puzzle Fire.

Byline: The Register-Guard

SISTERS - The Puzzle Fire, about 15 miles north of Santiam Junction, was burning uncontained Monday night and had torched 3,686 acres.

The Cascade Crest Complex Fire, made up of the Puzzle, Lake George and Black Crater fires, has burned 18,558 acres since lightning started the Black Crater Fire Aug. 7.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, according to the National Forest Service and state Department of Forestry.

Crews on the ground and spotters in airplanes have begun scouting for possible containment lines on the Puzzle Fire.

Firefighters have also started opening up trails and bulldozer lines left over from the B&B Complex Fire in 2003. They will work to build a fire line between Marion Lake and a lava field south of the fire. The fire, which is six miles east of Marion Forks, has been spreading south, west and northeast as its moves to the top of Bingham Basin.

Fire officials said the fire's growth potential was extreme and that it was burning in difficult terrain. Its cause is under investigation. The Forest Service and Department of Forestry have spent $208,200 fighting the fire.

The Lake George Fire has been smoldering and only slowly advancing. It has burned 5,472 acres and is 70 percent contained. Fire crews did not expect the fire to grow significantly. The cost to fight the fire to date has been $7,494,000. Nine helicopters, two airplanes, 30 fire engines, seven bulldozers and 19 water tenders are assigned to the fire.

Highway 242 was reopened to traffic on Monday. However, a number of trails, lakes and other recreational sites near the fire, including within the Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson wilderness areas, remain closed.

The Black Crater Fire was 100 percent contained earlier this month, and crews are continuing mop-up work. It burned 9,400 acres.

To the north, fire officials now estimate they will contain the Mount Hood Complex Fire on Sept. 4. The Bluegrass and Gumjuwac fires, which are 35 percent contained, have burned nearly 1,500 acres.

Crews have nearly completed their work on the Gumjuwac Fire.

The Bluegrass Fire, west of Highway 35, is expected to grow to south and west toward the fire line. However, fire officials said new starts outside the containment lines could rapidly increase the fire's size. After being opened intermittently the past several days, a central segment of Highway 35 will be closed for two days starting at noon today.

Elsewhere, fire crews battled several large blazes Monday in northcentral Washington, along with high temperatures and a lightning forecast that raised concerns about the potential for new fire starts.

The National Weather Service issued a ``red flag'' warning for all of Eastern Washington due to a high pressure system moving through the region, bringing high temperatures, low humidity and thunderstorms.

As a result, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, positioned fire crews throughout Washington and Oregon to prepare for any new fire starts.
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Title Annotation:Fires
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 22, 2006
Words:500
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