After they made good progress over the weekend, firefighters battling the 73,000-acre Canyon Creek Complex of wildfires in Oregon struggled with tougher conditions Monday as two more communities were evacuated.
But amid the bone-dry, 90-degree-plus conditions in Grant County — worsened by smoky air that authorities have declared unhealthy — many of the tired, grimy firefighters wouldn't be anywhere else.
"There's something fun about this job. It's kind of intoxicating," said Nate Combrink, a member of the elite Mormon Lake Interagency Hotshot Crew, which traveled to Oregon from Flagstaff, Arizona.
"You get to be out in places where most people never get a chance to go, see things that people don't get to see all the time," he said.
Combrink is among more than 650 firefighters who managed to raise containment of the fire, south of Canyon City, to 29 percent after almost two weeks Monday.
But rising temperatures, falling humidity and unstable air led incident commanders to keep a "red flag" warning in place at least through Monday night, and new growth led authorities to order mandatory evacuations of residents in the areas of Upper Pine Creek and Upper Dog Creek.
Almost 40 homes have already been destroyed as the fire advances into the Norton Fork of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, and destruction of trees and vegetation threaten to open the landscape to significant soil erosion and flooding later, the U.S. Forest Service said.