NEAR WONDER, Ore. – The Slate Creek Fire, burning outside Wilderville, has charred more than 120 acres. On Monday afternoon, a huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles. It lead down to an area about 13 miles west of Grants Pass off of Highway 199. Crews said the remote area and winds helped the fire spread and it made some homeowners extra cautious.
People living near the wildfire could only watch as it burned up and over the hill, as firefighters raced to try to protect their homes. It was a Labor Day barbecue for the Bennion family, interrupted by a larger barbecue in the hills out their back door. As the family watched the smoke, firefighters arrived in their front yard ready to fight the flames and it was clear the party was over.
“We were having a lot of fun, and now they’re getting ready to leave,” said Ted Bennion. “It’s really surreal, ash is falling around me, and it’s such a beautiful valley, it’s hard to see it go.”
The Oregon Department of Forestry said the wildfire was spotted around 2 p.m. Monday, and it burned through trees and brush at Slate Creek, near the small community of Wonder. Air tankers and helicopters attacked the flames from the air.
Despite the rugged conditions, ODF says the fire burned 120 acres and eventually slowed down Monday. Firefighters from Grants Pass and Rural Metro Fire Department stationed themselves between the wildfire and people’s homes, ready for if the fire picks up speed.
“The fire is progressing this way, but it’s not moving very quickly, we’re just getting prepared in case it wants to make a run this direction,” said Cory Fox, with Grants Pass Fire.
As homes are protected, people hope their valley will be spared by the flames as well. For now they’re waiting to see if winds stay calm, and conditions improve Tuesday.
The Oregon Department of Forestry maintains a blog that includes breaking news on wildfires, along with current fire statistics. Click here to view the latest information on this and other current wildfires.