Inland fires affect coast
July 29, 2013 07:02 am

Even though the fires are miles away, dozens of fires in Douglas and Josephine counties are impacting the Curry County coast.

Smoke from the lightning-caused fires was evident throughout the weekend and will continue today and tonight in the Brookings area, according to weather forecasts.

Firefighters are trying to save structures at Oak Flat, southwest of Agness along the Illinois River. The Bear Camp Road between Agness and the Grants Pass area was closed to public traffic Saturday night due to high fire danger.

Firefighting agencies have been too busy to get out many public information statements about the fires, hoping to get a joint information center up and running on Monday. Some reports are being posted at www.swofire.com by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

"Our priority message to you: Firefighter and public safety is the No. 1 priority, particularly given the conditions that we are currently facing in southwestern Oregon," wrote public affairs officer Virginia Gibbons in an email Sunday."

Please watch this site as more information becomes available today.

A fire in the remote Rogue River Canyon has forced the closure of Bear Camp Road, causing shuttle operators to detour though California and Gold Beach in order to pick up river rafters landing at Agness, according to the Grants Pass Daily Courier.

The fire closest to the coast appears to be the Labrador Fire, located downstream of Oak Flat and southwest of the Illinois River.

This statement was released about the Labrador Fire at 9 a.m. Monday:

"The Labrador Fire  is currently estimated to be 700 acres and burning adjacent to the Illinois River near the community of Oak Flat. Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 2 (IC Brett Fillis) assumed command of the fire Sunday morning. The Incident Command Post is located at Lake Selmac. Heavy smoke from fires to the north are limiting the ability of aircraft to assist on the Labrador Fire. Firefighters are working to improve access and scout for fireline opportunities. The Illinois River Road is closed to the public to allow access for fire traffic. Although it is very smoky, business and travel in the Illinois Valley have not been affected."

Challenges to the firefighters include post-Biscuit Fire conditions, which include scores of standing dead snags and 20 foot-high brush fields, according to Gibbons.  The snags have a tendency to fall over, roll down hill and then re-ignite, making conditions very treacherous for the firefighters on the ground.

 

“This is a classic example of a situation that shouts 'watch out' from a safety standpoint and all of our strategies must reflect firefighter safety as a top priority while suppressing this fire,” said Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Fire Management Officer Kevin Donham.

 

The Labrador Fire continues to back down toward the Illinois River and it remains active on all perimeters.  Structure protection at Oak Flat has been the top priority. 

About 625 firefighters were at work Sunday in Josephine County, where about 700 acres were burning, according to fire officials. More firefighters are expected to arrive in coming days.

Smoke from the Josephine County fires and a complex of fires near Glendale that burned another 10,000 acres, darkened the skies over Josephine County as dusk approached on Saturday. Haze hung in the area west of Grants Pass Sunday morning.

Gov. John Kitzhaber declared the Douglas County Complex, burning just outside of Glendale, a conflagration as of late Saturday night. The declaration authorized the state fire marshal to mobilize structural firefighters and equipment to assist local resources battling the fire and working to protect structures.

The complex of fires has burned 10,000 acres. Approximately 300 homes in the Glendale area are threatened. Forty-five of the homes have been evacuated. The state fire marshal office has activated command and control elements of the Green Incident Management team to manage the structural protection resources that have been deployed.

Residents west of Glendale were evacuated late Saturday afternoon. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office evacuated all homes west of McCullough Creek Road to Reuben. Residents east of McCullough Creek Road to the mill west of Glendale are being asked to prepare for potential evacuation. This means residents are warned that, should conditions worsen, they also will be asked to evacuate.