Mother Nature has been cooperating — so far — to help firefighting efforts on the three wildfires burning on the eastern edge of Curry County, offering a splattering of rain, little to no wind and cooler temperatures.
The Big Windy Fire grew by 1,000 acres over the weekend but is now 15 percent contained, in part due to help from light rain that fell on the 15,278-acre wildfire. Monday night, it only grew by 80 acres.
“It’s just sort of sitting there,” said Sheriff John Bishop. “It’s growing, but it’s slow.”
The rain — although only measuring a quarter-inch but considered by fire crews to be “substantial” — hampered burnout operations.
Crews are focusing now on holding the fire line on the southeast and southwest flanks and, if the weather cooperates, will conduct more extensive burn operations on eastern edges of the fire.
That fire complex is burning 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass.
Rainey Falls and the Rogue River trails remain closed, as fire conditions in those area are still too dangerous. And Bear Camp and part of Burnt Ridge roads are still closed, as well.
Firefighters also extinguished several smaller fires ignited by lightning last Friday.
“They had two that were bigger, near Paradise Lodge,” Bishop said. “They put in some smokejumpers and they think they have those pretty well mopped up.”
Fire line construction is complete at the Zane Gray historic cabin and Black Bar Lodge, and continues in Galice and Rogue River Ranch.
Monday, the section of the Rogue River previously closed to rafters between Grave and Mule creeks was reopened, albeit with restrictions. The Grave Creek boat ramp and the section of river from Grave Creek to the Rogue River Ranch remain closed.
Bishop said rafting is back up to 125 boats a day — average in the summer months.
Rafters are encouraged to be aware that increased bear activity might occur in the river canyon, especially in burned areas and around campsites. Additionally, spot fires might be near the river’s edge, smoke could be thick at times and rafters should be aware that trees could fall into the river, creating additional obstructions — called strainers — in the waterway.
Rolling debris and rocks could be possible, as well, as slopes become unstable when fire has burned away vegetation that holds them in place.
Rafters are required to yield to helicopters conducting “dipping operations,” by moving to the safe side of the river to allow maneuvering operations. If a helicopter is dipping, rafters should wait until they are done then quickly move downriver and out of the way.
When stopping for the day, rafters are reminded that campsites might be crowded and people are encouraged to share sites. Additionally, fire personnel might be present conducting operations.
Weather this week is forecast to warm up then cool down as the low front responsible for the thundershowers moves to the north, allowing for onshore winds. Maximum temperatures inland are forecast to range between 78 to 83 degrees, with light winds of 6 to 8 miles per hour.
Fire officials still hope to have the fire extinguished by Sept. 1.
“I don’t think they want to say (it’s winding down,)” Bishop said. “All we need is a weather event and it’ll whip it right up. We’re just keeping our eyes on it.”
Rafters can call the Smullin Visitor Center at 541-479-3735 regarding river restrictions and operations.