Tractor operator dies trying to suppress Oregon wildfire

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities say it appears a tractor operator died while trying to restrain a wildfire that scorched 70 square miles (181 kilometers) in little more than 24 hours in the Pacific Northwest.

The blaze east of Portland, Oregon, and near the city of The Dalles started Tuesday and spread into a rural farming area with vast wheat fields.

Authorities found one person dead Wednesday near a burned-out tractor. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office says the person was likely trying to use the heavy farm machinery to create a fire break to hold back flames.

Dozens of homes have been evacuated because of the conflagration.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday, marking the unofficial start to a Pacific Northwest Fire season that’s expected to be worse than normal.