Image: Wash. wildfire
Rick Bowmer  /  AP
A wildfire burns along the cliffs overlooking the Columbia River near White Salmon, Wash., on Friday.
updated 9/21/2007 6:01:14 PM ET 2007-09-21T22:01:14

A wildfire pushed by strong winds blowing through a gorge destroyed five homes on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River and a sixth closer to the water, authorities said.

Fifty to 60 other homes were threatened by the blaze that began Thursday near the bottom of the gorge, then raced uphill through rugged terrain of brush and timber. The fire then settled down overnight as winds subsided, fire officials said.

“I wouldn’t say we’re done with the threat yet,” said Stan Hinatsu, a fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service. “We need to wait and see what the day brings us.”

An unspecified number of people were evacuated in Skamania County, about 60 miles east of Portland, Ore., and an evacuation center was set up at a school, Hinatsu said.

By midday Friday, the fire covered 150 acres and was about 40 percent contained by midday Friday, Hinatsu said. About 300 firefighters were battling the blaze, aided by four helicopters and three air tankers.

Fire officials initially reported five homes on the bluff had burned. Hinatsu said that the additional report of another home was not a new loss Friday, but was from the night before.

Winds gusted up to 38 mph Thursday, but Hinatsu said the winds were expected to be only about 10 mph Friday. Still, he cautioned: “All it takes is a spark and little bit of wind to cross the fire line to fan it and we could be off to the races again.”

The fire’s cause was under investigation.

The Columbia River Gorge is renowned as a windsurfing location because of the funneling effect created by the steep bluffs where the river cuts through the Cascade mountain range on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

In Southern California, a wildfire that scorched more than 14,000 acres — or nearly 22 square miles — in the San Bernardino National Forest was fully contained Thursday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

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