Officials: 80 large fires burning across nine states

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COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, Ore. – Fire officials say an Oregon wildfire in the scenic Columbia River Gorge has grown to nearly 16 square miles and is threatening homes.

Residents of about 400 homes have been forced to evacuate, while others have been warned to get ready.

A fire official told reporters Tuesday that no homes have been lost so far, but crews were still assessing the damage. Lt. Damon Simmons, a spokesman for the state fire marshal’s office, says the blaze spread overnight but was calming down as crews scrambled to get a handle on it.

Firefighters also are attacking the fire by air when smoky conditions allow.

More than 30 miles of Interstate 84 running east of Portland, Oregon, was closed. A state official says it’s unclear when it will reopen.

Multnomah County has declared a state of emergency over the fire that started Saturday.

The U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to assign 200 active-duty soldiers to help fight a wildfire in Washington state.

Civilian firefighting commanders said Tuesday the soldiers from Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, will undergo four days of training.

Then they will be sent to a complex of 14 wildfires in the Umpqua National Forest that have burned 47 square miles.

The soldiers will join about 1,000 firefighters already at the site.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire-fighting, says 80 large fires are burning on 2,200 square miles  in nine Western U.S. states.

The military has already dispatched three C-130s to drop fire-retardant slurry and two RC-26 surveillance aircraft to help fight Western fires.