Crews contain wildfires near Cave Junction

CAVE JUNCTION — Fire crews were kept busy in Josephine County on Wednesday afternoon after six small blazes sparked just outside Cave Junction.

The first report of smoke and flames came at 2:23 p.m. along South Kirby Avenue just north of Cave Junction. The blaze was reported in a half-acre of brush.

On their way to the fire, Oregon Department of Forestry crews were diverted to a cluster of five wildfires burning along Highway 46 leading to the Oregon Caves National Monument.

The largest of those fires was reported to be 5 acres, burning in tall, dry grass on both sides of the road.

Oregon Department of Transportation crews closed the road from milepost 0 to 19 because of thick smoke.

"The smoke caused traffic hazards in the area," Oregon State Police Sgt. Steve Mitchell said.

Four smaller fires, the largest of which measured a quarter-acre in size, were quickly lined and doused by emergency crews.

The 90-degree temperatures and 15 mph wind gusts caused the fires to quickly grow in size. They briefly threatened barns and other structures before being extinguished, said ODF spokesman Brian Ballou.

"That combination caused quite a bit of excitement out there (Wednesday)," Ballou said.

The road was reopened by 5 p.m. Wednesday, though ODF crews would remain vigilant in the area into the evening, Ballou said.

Four engines and a bulldozer from ODF's Grants Pass Unit responded to the fires, along with engines from the U.S. Forest Service, Illinois Valley Fire District, Rural Metro Fire Department and Grants Pass Department of Public Safety.

The causes of the fires remains under investigation, Ballou said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail

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