Crews stop O'Brien fire, gain on wilderness blaze in 'bone dry' conditions

Despite bone-dry conditions in the region, firefighters stopped a 48-acre blaze that exploded near O'Brien Monday and have a fire line around about half of an 802-acre blaze in a Northern California wilderness area.

Monday's fire a mile west of O'Brien in the southern tip of the Illinois Valley destroyed a garage, a pump house and an outbuilding before firefighters from the state, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and local departments stopped it. A dog also was killed. The cause remains under investigation.

In Northern California, crews built the line around about half of the Red Rock Fire burning in the Marble Mountain Wilderness south of Happy Camp, according to a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. More than 360 firefighters and five helicopters are battling the blaze.

Also, the 165-acre Harrington Fire continues to burn in the Siskiyou Wilderness just southwest of Happy Camp. It is 30 percent contained by fire lines.

"The wildland fuels are bone dry," said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry. "We've had a prolonged series of weeks with no significant rainfall and high temperatures. There are lots of possibilities for bad things.

"There are a lot of parallels to 1987 — things were relatively quiet, then everything just cut loose," recalled Ballou, who helped battle those blazes. "We had that huge lightning storm and suddenly we had wildfires everywhere."

The series of dry lightning storms that hit on the last weekend of August that year triggered the Silver complex fires which burned more than 100,000 acres that year.

— Paul Fattig

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