Forest fires grow overnight and continue to spread

Wildfires scattered across Southern Oregon continued to spread overnight, with some of them burning together to form larger blazes, spurring a call from several agencies for more personnel and equipment.

The Douglas Complex in southern Douglas County had burned approximately 2,000 acres as of 9:30 a.m. today, said Kyle Reed, spokesman for the Douglas Forest Protective Association out of Roseburg.

Most of the Douglas County fires are burning in the Cow Creek drainage west of Glendale, but several are burning in the Milo area east of Canyonville, Reed said.

At 8 a.m. today, management of the fire was turned over to an Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Team II.

In the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Labrador fire burning near the Illinois River had reached close to 300 acres this morning and was still spreading on all flanks, said Paul Galloway, spokesman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Other fires burning on the national forest seem to be in good shape, with none larger than five acres this morning, Galloway said, but the Labrador fire is a cause for concern.

The Labrador fire is centered south of the Illinois River and downstream of Oak Flat, approximately one mile southwest of Briggs Creek Campground and within a mile east of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Private land inholdings in the Oak Flat area are at risk, and fire officials are in contact with local residents, said Virginia Gibbons, with the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest.

In the meantime, "we've ordered a lot of crews, engines and aircraft to fight the fire," Galloway said.

"We'll be turning over management of the Labrador fire to a Type II incident management team this evening or tomorrow," Galloway said. "It's burning in a really inaccessible area, near the old Biscuit fire burn. It'll be a tough go, I think."

In Josephine County, approximately 11 crews, 40 engines and 325 firefighters are battling three fires in a complex of 24 fires, said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District, which includes Jackson and Josephine counties.

The largest is the Brimstone fire about five miles southwest of Sunny Valley, which grew to about 150 acres overnight.

"Our task is to establish a fire line out there," said Ballou, who noted that crews worked through the night to try and get a handle on the situation.

Another blaze, the Farmer Gulch fire, is burning about a mile and a half away, west of Wolf Creek, and had grown from five to 20 acres overnight.

"We're working to re-establish the fire line there," Ballou said.

The fires are the result of a lightning storm that raged across southern Douglas County and parts of Jackson and Josephine counties before daybreak Friday, igniting close to 75 fires.

While temperatures are expected to be slightly lower today than the 100-degree heat that has assaulted the region all week — forecasts call for low 90s — humidity levels are low and winds are not expected to help.

"Winds played a role in some of the fire growth we had (Friday)," said Reed, "and we have the potential for more wind today, so that's concerning."

Winds are predicted to blow out of the north today, bringing smoke from the Douglas County fires into the Medford area.

"The wind from the north will keep us smoked in," Ballou said. "The fires in Douglas County are bringing a lot of the smoke people are complaining about."

— David Smigelski

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