Fires continue, and so does smoke

July 30, 2013 08:35 am

Fires caused by a lightning storm late last week continue to burn out of control in neighboring Josephine and Douglas counties this morning.

The Governor has declared a State of Emergency for both counties.  More evacuations have been ordered in several fire areas.

Though they are miles away, smoky conditions remain in the National Weather Service forecasts for today and tonight in the Brookings area.

The fires have closed the Bear Camp Road between Agness and the Rogue Valley, chiefly because of a fire near Oak Flat, between Agness and Selma.

In the fire areas themselves, a threat of dry lightning and thunderstorms is expected today through Thursday. There is a chance for rain Wednesday and Thursday, and then a drying trend Friday through the weekend.

Here are some Tuesday morning fire updates: 

From the Oregon Department of Forestry:

Bear Camp Road is now officially closed; see closure orders at the above websites. Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Land Management, Curry County Sheriff’s Office and the Gold Beach Ranger District are working cooperatively to provide staffing at the Bear Camp Road closure checkpoints. Josephine County Emergency Services and Coos Forest Protection Association, in cooperation with Oregon Department of Transportation, has provided signing.

The fire has moved very close to the south bank of the Rogue River; at 2 p.m., heavy smoke, aerial debris and active flame fronts were reported by agency personnel. As a result, the Rogue River Ranch was evacuated as a precautionary measure.  

River recreationists are advised that smoke will continue to impact the Rogue River corridor. Rapid changes in fire behavior may force closures in order to protect public safety.
 

From the Grants Pass Daily Courier:

Smoke funneled into Grants Pass from the north on Monday, making the air miserable throughout the city, the North Valley and the Illinois Valley.

As of 8 p.m., the air quality reading from the Provolt Seed Orchard in the Applegate Valley read 324 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. It was 265 at Parkside Elementary and over 300 in Cave Junction, putting all three sites in the "hazardous" level.

The readings rose steadily throughout the afternoon. The National Weather Service predicts light winds from the northwest on Tuesday, meaning more smoke is likely.

Josephine County Public Health Department is recommending all outdoor activities be cancelled or limited to the greatest extent possible. It is further recommended that people limit personal outdoor activity to the greatest extent possible and remain indoors when and where possible, or use respirator masks outdoors.

 
Meanwhile firefighters furiously battled several large fires in Southern Oregon on Monday, including the 22,000-acre Douglas Complex west of Glendale, the 870-acre Labrador Fire on the Illinois River near Oak Flat west of Selma, the 2,000-acre Big Windy Complex on the lower Rogue River, and the 2,000-acre Brimstone Fire five miles west of Sunny Valley.

None were more than 2 percent contained.

Heavy fire activity on the Big Windy Complex forced evacuation of the Rogue River Ranch near Marial. The Big Windy Complex includes Big Windy, Jenny and Calvert Peak fires. The Inciweb website, used by firefighting officials to disseminate information, indicated the fire may force closures in the Rogue River corridor.

From the Roseburg News-Review:

The rapidly moving Douglas Complex fire north of Glendale continued to expand today and reached 21,000 acres this afternoon, fire officials said. The fire, which was sparked by a surprise thunderstorm last Friday, was listed at 13,400 acres this morning. The expansion was largely Sunday, but an infared flight around midnight determined an updated acreage.

Bureau of Land Management public information officer Cheyne Rossbach said the blaze remains at 2 percent containment. He said crews should increase to approximately 1,400 personnel by the end of today.

There are currently 400 homes and 35 outbuildings that are threatened.