Crews protect evacuated houses, some residents likely to return home soon

    The fire burning on Roxy Ann Peak, dubbed the Deer Ridge Fire, was declared a conflagration by the governor at 4:25 p.m., clearing the way for additional state resources to help bring it under control.

    More than 100 residences — all east of Foothill Road between Hillcrest and Corey roads — have been given non-mandatory evacuation notices. Precautionary evacuation notices also have been issued for the Dry Creek and Alpine Road areas farther east.

    However, no structures have burned, officials said this evening. Some residents were expected to be allowed to return to their homes tonight.

    As smoke billowed over a ridge, Dry Creek Road resident Randy Struckmeier started up three Rainbird sprinklers on his acre-plus parcel.

    "We've got all our valuables ready to go — we could be out of here in five minutes," he said, noting the fire was three to four miles distant just before 5 p.m. Monday.

    But an hour later the fire was half that distance away from their home, he reported.

    "We're watching it inch closer," he said. "The police have been by, told us we should be ready to leave. We've moved the car up and filled it with our prize possession."

    Before the police arrived, he and his wife, Alice, gathered their important documents and family photographs — all their children are away at college — and prepared for the worst.

    "In addition to the sprinklers, we have a 10,000-gallon pool we could pump out of if we need it," he said, adding that a neighbor has a large holding tank that can be used if harm comes their way.

    The neighbors are working together, he said, adding it has been roughly a dozen years since the area was threatened by a wildfire.

    Flames whipped by 20- to 30-mph gusts, quickly reached heights of 30 to 40 feet and were within 100 feet of half a dozen homes.

    Five air tankers, five helicopters and five bulldozers from a variety of Jackson and Josephine county agencies helped save several homes, said Paul Galloway of the Oregon Department of Forestry.

    With a large grass fire burning at midday in Ashland, emergency crews were poised when the Roxy Ann fire broke out.

    "Ironically, having a four-alarm fire in Ashland helped us enormously," Medford Fire Chief David Bierweiler said.

    There have been no reported injuries to fire personnel or residents.

    A red flag warning remains in effect through Tuesday, meaning any fire, if not controlled quickly, could rapidly spread.

    — Staff reports

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