Showers help firefighters in Oregon

PORTLAND — Firefighters and rainfall blunted a grasslands fire that threatened an Eastern Oregon city.Two overnight showers dropped a tenth of an inch of rain, slowing the flames enough for authorities to lift be-ready-to-leave notices given Thursday to neighborhoods at the edge of John Day.No homes were damaged and the haze that blanketed the neighborhoods was replaced by blue skies.“Everything’s pretty calm now,” resident Rick Minster said by phone Friday. “I can look out my window here, kind of to the north, and I can’t see any smoke at all.”Minster estimated the flames got within a quarter-mile of the neighborhood on the east end and a mile on the north side. Plenty of firefighters were on hand, he said, and several planes were used to attack the fire.“It was quite the air show for a while,” he said. Lightning started the Grouse Mountain Fire on Wednesday, and the blaze has been fueled by grass, sagebrush, and juniper and pine trees.The wind shifted Thursday night and drove the flames south toward the city limits. The fire area expanded rapidly, from about 2,000 acres to about 11,500 acres, or about 18 square miles. City police told residents to get their belongings together.“We were all ready to move,” said Blanche Lundbom, who lives in the same neighborhood as Minster. “It was pretty scary.”Gov. John Kitzhaber late Thursday authorized the state fire marshal to mobilize structural firefighters from other parts of the state to help local crews protect the 75 structures that were threatened.