40 homes evacuated in wind-whipped Lyle blaze

40 homes evacuated in wind-whipped Lyle blaze »Play Video
A helicopter drops water Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 in the battle to contain a wildfire burning near the town of Lyle, Wash.

LYLE, Wash. - About 40 homes have been evacuated as a wildfire that has consumed about 1,800 acres near the town of Lyle, just northwest of The Dalles, Ore., burned within feet of homes in the Columbia River Gorge Friday.

People pulled over on Highway 14 to watch the helicopters come in and suck water out of the Columbia River and then race back to dump their loads on the fire.

Helicopters are essential in the battle because much of the fire is burning on very steep terrain above the Klickitat River. Four of them have been employed to fight the fire.

Firefighters are trying to keep the flames on the west side of the river because most of the homes are on the east side of it.

While crews have been successful in saving every house so far, a barn has been lost to the flames.

The fire started at about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday and quickly grew to over 1,000 acres because of high winds. In addition to the 40 families evacuated, more than 100 others are on standby in case the fire shifts.

Authorities have not released an official cause of the fire but at least one resident said high winds blew over a ponderosa pine and into a power pole, which caused sparks to fly.

The fire is mostly burning in grass, brush and timber, officials said.

The Lions Club in Lyle has opened its doors to those who need shelter.

Several fire districts and agencies are working the fire.