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Wildfire north of Rogue River now mostly contained, ODF says

The Oregon Department of Forestry responded to a brush fire reported in the Starvation Heights area north of Rogue River on Tuesday.

Posted: Apr 21, 2020 4:44 PM
Updated: Apr 22, 2020 4:26 PM

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. — A wildfire that broke out on Tuesday north of Rogue River is now mostly contained, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The fire was first reported around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday near Shangrila Lane in the Starvation Heights area. While it started at roughly 2-3 acres, it quickly spread with the afternoon winds as fire crews from ODF and other local fire districts began to respond.

By Tuesday evening, ODF said that the fire had grown to an estimated roughly 20 acres, burning in brush near Shangrila Lane. Structural support crews from nearby fire districts were called in to help protect buildings in the area.

By 4:40 p.m., air support helicopter were doing water drops on the fire.

Three hand crews, two bulldozers, and two helicopters were eventually assigned to the fire. While Ballou said that firefighting efforts were "going well" by Tuesday night, there was night crew assigned to the fire even after the initial spread was stopped.

On Wednesday afternoon, ODF said that the fire was 90 percent contained. Rainfall over the area helped fire crews to completely extinguish hot spots 50 feet beyond the fire line. The fire's final size is now judged at 19 acres.

"Crews from ODF's Grants Pass and Medford units have worked to contain the fire over the last 24 hours, assisted by a Bureau of Land Management crew, local contractor crews and structural protection engines from southwest Oregon fire districts," ODF said. "No crews will be on the fire line tonight, due to safety reasons brought on by the rainfall today."

ODF said that crews would return on Thursday to contiue mopping up the fire's perimeter and patrol for any possible flare-ups.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

While Fire Season has not officially started — meaning that ODF is not yet enforcing tightened fire danger restrictions — the agency has requested that people in southwest Oregon halt debris burning due to the dry conditions.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Land Management, the southwest Oregon area is only at 50 percent of its average rainfall for the year, measuring since October 1. Current fire danger data puts the area at "late June conditions," though it is not yet the end of April.

With a dry winter and continuing warm conditions, there has been a spike in human-caused fires in southwest Oregon already. The BLM reports that it has responded to more than 20 fires this year, totalling about 12 acres burned. Over the same period in 2019, there were only two fires that burned less than an acre.

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