Winds topple trees, spark fires in Ore.



BEND, Ore. — Winds gusting to 40 mph wreaked havoc on parts of Central Oregon Saturday, toppling trees that blocked roads and downing power lines that sparked wildfires and forced the evacuation of several dozen homes.

About 40 to 50 homes were evacuated in the Crescent Creek subdivision near La Pine, KTVZ-TV in Bend reported. Residents of another subdivision were told to prepare their belongings and pets and be ready to evacuate if the order is given, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said.

Fire crews told KTVZ that one blaze burned within 50 yards of an elementary school in La Pine.

Red Cross workers set up an evacuation shelter at the La Pine Events Center.

The sheriff’s office said Saturday evening that no structures had been damaged.

No injuries were reported, but the authorities advised people to stay indoors until the winds subsided and crews could clean up roadways. Lt. Chad Davis said the sheriff’s office received several reports of transformers exploding and trees catching fire.

It was a frightening early May start to Central Oregon’s wildfire season, which usually doesn’t begin in earnest until July or August. Experts have warned across the West of an early, rough fire season due to dry conditions.

A National Weather Service spotter a mile north of Three Rivers said northeast winds caused a 50-foot-tall tree, 12 to 14 inches in diameter, to fall onto a home, damaging the roof and the attached garage.

Weather Service forecasters in Pendleton said the north to northwest winds of 15-25 mph with gusts to about 35 mph would continue across Deschutes County through Saturday evening, then subside overnight.

“Although these winds are not overly strong, trees unaccustomed to northerly winds of this strength are at risk of falling over or snapping,” forecasters warned.