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Strong winds, dry weather trigger fires in parts of Oregon

While much of Oregon is dipping close to freezing temperatures, several days of strong winds with little to no rain have spread fires in parts of the state.

Many fires appear to have grown from escaped burn piles.

One fire in Clatsop County grew to about 300 acres by Saturday and triggered Level 3 evacuations for a handful of homes. Firefighters are battling a few other smaller fires in the coastal county.

The concerning fire conditions prompted fire agencies on Saturday to re-enact a burn ban across Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Yamhill counties. The ban prohibits burning yard debris, tree stumps, agricultural fields or crops, or any other open burning. People are still allowed to use outdoor cooking equipment and recreational fires, as long as there’s a 3-foot clearance around those fires.

High pressure east of the Cascades, where temperatures are much colder, has been pushing air through the Columbia River Gorge, according to the National Weather Service Portland office, creating strong winds in the Portland area. Over the last several days, winds blew at 30 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph in some areas, cracking tree limbs and triggering some power outages.

But those winds died down by Sunday. The weather service forecasts them to stay low for the next few days, but conditions will remain dry until at least Tuesday, when there’s a 50% chance of rain.

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