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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Mike Hammond talks about watching the helicopters fight the Miles fire, where he lost his mother’s home.

Home lost to Miles fire; Lost Creek recreational area closed

The 10,000-plus-acre Miles fire burning north of Trail made another run toward Elk Creek Road and jumped it Thursday, consuming a residence and prompting the closure of all recreational areas at Elk Creek and Lost Creek Lake.

Mike Hammond said the fire burned his mother’s home that was built in the 1940s and had remained a family vacation spot.

“Everything I owned burnt up,” he said.

Hammond said “choppers and air cranes” were coming every five to six minutes to battle the flames. He said he has another home on the same property that remained unscathed, but that he also lost multiple motorhomes during the fire.

“It was pretty scary, but when that was happening we were down here watching,” he said.

The Miles fire grew active as smoke cleared and winds picked up, according to Christa Sadler, spokeswoman for the Sugar Pine complex that includes the Miles fire.

“Less smoke creates more access for sunlight, which creates more heat, which creates more fire,” Sadler said. “That combination as well as the wind and low humidity led to the growth and jump of the Miles fire.”

A spot fire created when the Miles fire jumped the road quickly grew to 200 acres, despite helicopters and firefighters attempting to suppress it. The fire burned Hammond’s residence at around 6:30 p.m.

The Miles fire merged with the Sugar Pine and Goodview fires of the collective Sugar Pine fire, Sadler said.

“We knew something bad was happening when we heard all of the activity from firefighters and the people out there fighting this,” said Elk Creek Road resident Jerry Bilden. “We heard the helicopters and had tons of ash falling around us.”

Bilden said he has two homes on his Elk Creek Road property, and is around eight miles away from homes that are in a level 3 “go” evacuation order.

“It’s unsettling, that’s for sure,” he said. “But we’re all getting prepared to go at any moment, if it gets to that point.”

Addresses from 8800 and above on Elk Creek Road, as well as all addresses on Sugar Pine and Dodes Creek roads, remain on a level 3 “go” evacuation advisory, first set in place Tuesday.

Additionally, addresses from 829 and above on Ulrich Road, addresses from 4000 and above on Lewis Road and all addresses on Shelly Lane are on a level 3 “go” evacuation advisory, according to a South Umpqua Complex Friday release.

Firefighters planned to continue providing structure protection along Elk Creek Road and assessing structures further to the southeast for additional protection.

“Everyone is overly anxious out here, with something like a fire that’s just so out of your control,” said Bilden. “And everyone is really appreciative of what these firefighters are doing to protect our homes.”

Bilden said he has been prepping his two homes as much as possible, so they are most likely to survive if fire approaches. He said he has placed sprinklers on top of the homes to keep things wet if he is evacuated, and is packing up items “near and dear to his heart.”

“Of course, the dogs will be in the first round out with us,” he said. “More than anything, we’re just grateful for the people who are trained to come and fight this and trusting as things go along.”

Despite losing one of his family homes, Hammond also spoke highly of crews working to battle the many nearby fires.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job actually, believe it or not,” he said. “These guys have been so dang friendly you almost want to invite them in to have tea and pie.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has closed all recreational areas at Elk Creek and Lost Creek Lake to non-fire personnel until further notice because of the wildfires. The following locations are closed: McGregor Park, visitor center, Bridge Hole and surrounding fishing areas; McGregor boat ramp and all fishing areas at the Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery; River’s Edge Park and picnic shelter; Rogue River Basin Project Office, the dam and surrounding fishing areas; Takelma Day Use and Boat Ramp areas; Four Corners campground; Fire Glen campground; Lost Creek trailhead and trail; Lewis Road trailhead and trail; Catfish Cove; Peyton Bridge trailhead and trail; Medco fishing access; Spillway fishing access; Big Butte Creek and Viewpoint Mike trailheads and trails; all of the Rogue River Trail surrounding Lost Creek Lake, including all sections of trail from the base of the dam to Highway 62; and all of Elk Creek north of Highway 62.

Here’s the latest on other fires burning in southwestern Oregon.

Taylor Creek fire

Continuing to burn near Grants Pass, the Taylor Creek fire has grown to 33,591 acres and is 34 percent contained, according to a Friday Joint Information Center fire update. The fire is steadily moving toward Bear Camp Road and Galice Creek drainage, leading the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office Friday to close the Bear Camp Road system. Plans were in place to continue preparing Bear Camp Road for the advancing fire.

Firefighters mopped up along the Rogue River and strengthened a secure margin between the fire and homes in the Hog Creek and Picket Creek areas. The sheriff’s office downgraded evacuations in the two areas Thursday night.

Engines continued to patrol Limpy Creek and Shan Creek areas as crews progressed on mop-up operations and strengthened control lines.

Garner Complex

Seeing no growth in 24 hours, the Garner Complex fire remained at 8,886 acres Friday, according to the joint update. The fire was 75 percent contained.

With “the fire in good hands,” the Florida Forest Service Type 1 incident management team took over operations of the Garner Complex fires at noon Friday, according to an Incident Information System update. Some Oregon Department of Forestry staff will continue operations in the complex.

Klondike fire

Burning in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, the Klondike fire has grown to 23,460 acres and remains at 5 percent containment, according to the joint update.

Continued growth of up to one-half of a mile was anticipated Friday in the fire’s active areas. Thursday, crews continued structure protection in Briggs Valley and prepared for further burnout operations along Illinois River Road.

Crews Friday planned to use low-intensity burnouts to remove vegetation along the main containment line east of the fire, while maintaining the line to the south and continuing burnout operations north toward Serpentine Point.

A level 3 “go” evacuation remains in effect for Oak Flat community along Illinois River Road in Josephine County. Illinois River Road from milepost 2.5 to up Oak Flat remains at a level 2 “get ready.”

Homes west of Highway 199 between the intersection of Highway 199 and Lakeshore Drive north to Waters Creek Road — including Hogue Drive, Norman Road, Illinois River Road, Squaw Mountain Road, Clear Creek Drive, Hidden Creek Road, Circle W. Drive, Onion Mountain Road, Butcherknife Road, Slate Creek Road and all secondary connected roads — have been placed on a level 1 “be ready” evacuation warning.

Natchez

Burning 15 miles southeast of Cave Junction, the Natchez fire had reached 8,432 acres and remained at 15 percent containment Friday, according to the joint update.

Mop-up operations continued on northern areas of the fire, and crews ran low-intensity burning operations from Kelly Lake southeast toward Indian Creek to stay ahead of the fire activities in the Siskiyou Wilderness.

Primary goals Friday were to protect the Happy Camp and Indian Creek communities, continue structure protection along Grayback Road and Indian Creek and for low-intensity burning operations in the Baldy Mountain area if necessary.

The community of Sunstar in Northern California has been placed in a level 1 “get ready” evacuation status. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has issued an evacuation order for two residences near the end of South Fork Road, an evacuation warning for all residences accessed by the South Fork Road and all residences accessed by the Grayback Road, north of the junction of South Fork Road and Grayback Road.

Hendrix fire

Seeing no growth in multiple days, the Hendrix fire remained at 1,082 acres and was 70 percent contained Friday, according to the joint update. The fire is burning nine miles southwest of Ashland.

Timber Crater 6

Burning in the northeast corner of Crater Lake National Park, the Timber Crater 6 fire also had seen no growth in 24 hours, according to the joint release. The fire Friday remained at 3,126 acres and containment increased to 90 percent.

Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Morgan Theophil at mtheophil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4485. Follow her on Twitter @morgan_theophil.

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