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As Southern Oregon wildfires grow, new lightning storms expected on Sunday
As Southern Oregon wildfires grow, new lightning storms expected on Sunday
Zach Urness and Connor Radnovich, Salem Statesman Journal
The South Umpqua Complex continued to grow Saturday.
Incident Command Team / inciweb.gov
The wildfires burning across Southern Oregon had already brought major problemsto fire teams and local residents during the past week.
Now, theyll face another challenge:lightning storms expected to hit the area Sunday.
A red flag warning was issued by the National Weather Service due to scattered thunderstorms likely this afternoon and evening.
The lightning strikes appear most likely along the Oregon and California border, and into Northern California.
That could be bad news for the Hendrix and Natchez fires , burning near Ashland.
More:Yosemite wildfire doubles in size, could become a major threat
Lightning and high fire danger will likely result in new fire starts, the National Weather Service warning said. Gusty thunderstorm winds could contribute to fire spread. Despite rainfall, initial attack resources could be overwhelmed and holdover fires are possible.
Ironically, weather conditions are expected to improve around the Taylor Creek and Garner Complex fires to the north. Those fireshave brought the greatest danger to towns such as Wimer and Grants Pass,meteorologists said.
It might get worse in some locations, but here on the Garner Complex and for the fires more northerlyin Oregon, the winds actually got better and calmed down last night, NWS meteorologist Tom Wright said. Conditions are still very hot, but were not going to have the critical fire conditions weve been seeing, at least in our area.
Even though it might be slightly good news for the most critical of Southern Oregons fires, any new fires in the region willstretch resources thin, Wright said.
The concern is that if theres new fires, some of our resources will have to go out on initial attack, he said. Were already pretty stretched.
There are currentlyeight major wildfires or multi-fire complexes, and five regions with evacuation warnings in place.
Air quality in the region has ranged from moderate to unhealthy.This map is the best way to track air quality.
Heres a breakdown of the situation on each of the fires. The best map for tracking thefires and evacuations can be found here.
The most active and dangerous fire of the past few days has been the Taylor Creek Fire, burning west of Grants Pass and Merlin.
The fire continued to grow Saturday, reaching almost 3,000 acres and bringing a fresh round of evacuations in the populated areas nearMerlin area.
Its definitely spreading, said Tina Young, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry. Its a tough one to get at directly, so weve been working contingency lines around the fire to hold it in place, while we have almost 30 aircraft assigned doing drops from above.
More:Sudden tornadoes rip through Iowa damaging homes, buildings
Young said the fire spread to the south Saturday, toward the Limpy Creek and Shan Creek areas.
The good news is that conditions are expected to become less windy, officials said.
For a full breakdown on evacuations, see thiswebsiteor call .
The Taylor Creek Fire is now being managed as part of the Garner Creek Complex, even though its in a different location.
The largest and most problematic complex of wildfires in Southern Oregon is centered around Wimer, north of Rogue River and Interstate 5.
One day after an emergency declaration from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown allowed the State Fire Marshal to add resources to firefighting efforts, the fire continued to grow.
Multiple evacuations surround the Garner Complex, impacting more than 60 homes.
On Saturday, the three Grave Fires grew together and are now one fire of 3,792 acres.
More:Teen who started major Oregon wildfire must pay $36.6 million for damages, judge rules
The Pleasant Fire (599 acres), which has also brought evacuations, and Ditch Creek Fire (142 acres), are still having control lines built by hand and equipment, fire teams said Sunday morning.
The good news is that Spencer Fires, King Mountain Fire and Swamp Fire have been lined, plumbed and are in mop-up, fire teams said.
The best place to track information on Garner is its officialFacebook page here.
This could be a dangerous day on the Hendrix Fire.
The wildfire southwest of Ashland, in the Little Applegate River area, grew to 1,057acres by Sunday morning and is 15 percent contained.
But it will likely see some thunderstorm activity today.
There is a Red Flag Warning today due to a slight chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, with the possibility of abundant lightning, the Hendrix Fire teams said in a morning report.
More:California wildfire burns 30,500 acres, destroys 72 structures: What we know
Firefighters are prepared to initial attack any new fire starts if they occur. The fire is expected to become more active today, as atmospheric conditions become more unstable with a shift in the weather.
TheHendrix Firealready hasevacuation warnings in place foraround 35 homes near Ruch in Applegate Valley area.
It has alsoclosed a large areaof roads and trails in the region, including 13 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from Observation Gapto the Grouse Gap Shelter.
A public meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday at the Ruch Branch Library. The meeting will also be livestreamed. There are 467 personnel currently working the fire.
For details on evacuations, seethis post.
This complex of six larger wildfires and numerous smaller ones continued to grow on Saturday, reaching 3,469 acres almost 1,200 acres of growth in the past 24 hours.
Located between Crater Lake and Interstate 5 near Myrtle Creek, the fires have brought evacuationstothe Tiller area and closures of roads and trails.
More:The smoke was horrible: Hot, dry weather hampers crews battling wildfire near Yosemite
The Douglas County Sheriffs Office issued a level 2 evacuation warning, meaning get set to go at any moment, for six homes on Tison Road.
Several trails were also closed in Diamond Lake Ranger District, North Umpqua Ranger District and Tiller Ranger District.More than a dozen roads are also closed in the Tiller Ranger District.
For more details on the South Umpqua Complex, including more details on closures,click here.
TheNatchez Fire, located 15 miles south of Cave Junction, continued to grow Sunday morning.
Due to the growth, a large area on the Oregon and California border near theSiskiyou Wildernesssoutheast of Cave Junction was closed.
Its unclear the exact size of the fire, according to fire teams.
There are two activewildfires burning on the east side of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness west of Selma the Klondike and Granite fires.
Both appear to be growing, although acres numberswasnt avalable
This area is very rugged and has been unsafe to put members into the fire area, fire teams reported Sunday morning.A strategy is being developed to limit the growth of the fires using air resources and old fire lines and existing roads in the area.
More:Extreme California wildfire doubles in size as it roars into Oregon
A team of fire experts is being assembled to develop a long term strategy for controlling these fires.
The growth of the Klondike Fire drew a level 2 evacuation warning for the residences in Oak Flat, located west of Selma in the Illinois River corridor.
Level 2 means get set to go at any moment.
The wildfire burning in a remote area of Crater Lake National Park grew to 702 acres Saturday, but the park and all its attractions remain open.
Timber Crater 6 Fire, ignited by a lightning strike and located in the northeast corner of the park, is being staffed by 157 firefighters and two helicopters attempting to suppress the blaze.
More:More than 30 homes total losses in Florida wildfire; 22 buildings also destroyed in 2 California fires
Smoky conditions have been present at the park, due to both this fire and the numerous other blazes burning across Southern Oregon.
Even so, all trails, boat tours, roads and buildings remain open as usual, officials said in a news release.
There are numerous small to medium sized wildfires burning north of Prospect and Tilleron either side of Oregon Highway 62 south of Crater Lake.
Collectively they have burned 326 acres and are known as Sugar Pine, which is also the name of the largest of those fires.
More:California firefighter dies while battling blaze near Yosemite National Park
The titular Sugar Pine Fire is 250 acres and crews were still establishing an access rout to the blaze Saturday morning.
There could be slow-moving traffic in the area, particularly near the Highway 62 entrances to Joseph Steward State Park
Other active fires in the area include:
This complex of around 12 fires in Jackson County is in mop-up as of Saturday, a success story, said Ferguson, the public information officer.
These fires include: Trail Creek, Elk Creek, Green Top Mountain, Sterling Creek and Railroad Gap. The complex burned at least 250 acres.
Follow Zach Urness and Connor Radnovich on Twitter:@ZachsORoutdoors