Published: August 20,2017
Hundreds of people near the path of totality of Monday's eclipse were ordered to evacuate Friday as a raging wildfire closed in.
The late afternoon order threatened to create more tie-ups on rural and narrow roads already expected to be burdened with up to 200,000 visitors coming to the area from all over the world to watch Monday's total solar eclipse. About 1 million people are expected in Oregon, where the moon's shadow first makes landfall in the continental U.S.
About 600 residents were told to leave the tourist town of Sisters, Oregon, and authorities said Saturday another 1,000 people had been told to be ready to leave if necessary.
Sisters is located on the edge of a 70-mile swath of the state where the moon will completely blot out the sun. No structures had been lost and no injuries have been reported since the fire began last week. The cause is under investigation.
(MORE: Total Eclipse Forecast)
On Monday, crews will have to contend with the solar eclipse that fire officials say will ground all firefighting helicopters and most fixed-wing aircraft for about 35 minutes as the moon's shadow passes over the area.
Shopkeepers were hoping the fire would not inhibit business as tourists arrive to watch the eclipse.
"If you look up at the sky it's not an orange cloud anymore," said Andrew Bourgerie, co-owner of Sisters Bakery. "So it's simmering down a little bit."
Some campsites and recreational areas were shut down due to the 12-square-mile wildfire in Deschutes National Forest that jumped fire lines Friday.
Officials say the blaze is producing heavy smoke while burning in forests at higher elevations and sagebrush in lower areas.
"We have a few days before the eclipse to see if the smoke is in the area," fire spokeswoman Lisa Clark said.
Officials said only aircraft with instruments allowing them to fly at night can fight the fire during the eclipse. Clark said that eliminates the bulk of the firefighting fleet, though large air tankers will be able to fly.
(More: Eclipse Could Literally Change the Weather)
In California, authorities issued an evacuation order for the small town of Wawona as a week-old fire in Yosemite National Park grew and air quality reached a hazardous level. The U.S. Forest Service said the fire grew to more than 4 square miles overnight due to winds from thunderstorms. Authorities ordered people to leave as air quality was expected to worsen.
Wawona, with a population of 1,000 to 2,000 people at any given time, is less than 2 miles from the fire. The evacuation order included the historic Big Trees Lodge, formerly known as the Wawona Hotel. The fire has closed campgrounds and trails in the national park since it began a week ago.
In Montana, 155 National Guard troops arrived to monitor about three dozen security checkpoints in an area south of Missoula that was evacuated due to a fire that flared up after burning since at least July 15.
The fire destroyed two homes and several outbuildings Thursday. It burned an additional 14 square miles Friday and has charred an estimated 44 square miles of wooded, mountainous terrain west of Lolo.
The troops will relieve law enforcement officers so they can return to other duties.
The Missoulian reported that heavy smoke has settled into valleys and officials warned of poor air quality.
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