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Oregon fire spreads, governor declares statewide emergency

MERLIN, Ore. (AP) — A wildfire in remote southwest Oregon continued its rapid spread through a rural area and destroyed several structures, authorities said Sunday, as the threat of more blazes prompted the governor to sign a statewide emergency declaration.

The Rum Creek Fire has burned almost 15 square miles (38 square kilometers), according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That's more than double the 7 square miles (19 square kilometers) reported Saturday.

A house and two mining structures were destroyed, fire spokesperson Scott Owen said.

A heat wave moving into the area in coming days could worsen the situation and make it easier for fuels to burn, officials said. With much of the region in drought, Gov Kate Brown declared a state of emergency due to the imminent threat of wildfires statewide, which Brown said was unlikely to recede in the near future. The order allows National Guard troops to be deployed and respond to fires as needed throughout the remainder of the wildfire season.

A remote area with about 200 people and more than 100 houses and other structures remained under evacuation, according to information from Josephine County Emergency Management.

The evacuation included the unincorporated community of Galice. Sections of the Rogue River, which is popular among rafters and fishers, were closed to recreation because of the fire.

Brown’s office on Saturday announced she had invoked an emergency act that cleared the way for the State Fire Marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to assist local firefighters and to support a coordinated response.

More crews were brought in to fight the fire and a second aviation base was added, officials said. By Sunday morning, helicopters and air tankers dumped 1 million gallons (4.5 million liters) of water and 1 million gallons of retardant on the fire, Owen said.

The fire was started by lightning on Aug. 17 and killed Logan Taylor, a 25-year-old firefighter, after he was struck by a tree the next day. Brown ordered all flags at Oregon public institutions to be flown at half-staff on Monday in honor of Taylor, with his memorial service to be held the same day.

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