Gopher Fire growth slows in the Sky Lakes Wilderness with damp, cool conditions

The Gopher Fire is in a burn scar from the 2008 Middle Fork Fire, within the Sky Lakes Wilderness.

Posted: Sep 6, 2019 1:59 PM
Updated: Sep 9, 2019 11:38 AM


UPDATE: Growth on the Gopher Fire has slowed as damp, cool weather continues to moderate fire activity, according to fire officials. The fire, located in the Sky Lakes Wilderness about 11 miles east of Prospect, now covers about 340 acres.

"These cool and moist conditions are giving the us the time we need to prepare our fire lines and when the warmer and dryer weather returns in the coming weeks," said Aaron Schuh, Incident Commander.

Firefighters have continued to clear access points to the fire by opening old roads around the wilderness area — felling trees, primarily "snags," that could prove hazardous to crews operating in the area. Officials are still trying to find a good strategy for containing the fire's southern flank in the steep Middle Fork drainage area, where snags are abundant.

"Higher humidity will help keep spread rates low and most of the active fire will be limited to the heavy fuels which are prevalent due to the 2008 Middle Fork Fire," officials said. "Cool wet weather will continue over the fire for the next several days with possible thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon, then a warming and drying trend returns Wednesday."

Twelve 20-person hand crews, six helicopters and one dozer are working the fire, for a total of 289 personnel assigned.

Officials have decided to close several trails and roads for firefighter safety:

  • Closed Roads - National Forest Roads (NFR) 3795-300, 3795-500, NFR 3790, NFR 3790-200, NFR 3785.
  • Closed Trails - Trail No. 979 east from the Middle Fork Trailhead to its intersection with Trail 980, Trail No. 980, Trail No. 1084 from the Tom and Jerry Trailhead east to 1084's intersection with Trail No. 1085, Trail No. 1085, Trail No. 1089 from its intersection with Trail No. 1085 south to its intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail.

(Updated 9/9/19 at 11:30 a.m.)

UPDATE: The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest says the Gopher Fire is now 300 acres.

It grew 70 acres yesterday, because of snags and woody materials leftover from the 2008 Middle Fork Fire. Yesterday helicopters were used to check the fire's spread. So far the National Forest says crews made great progress on the west side of the fire. The containment line should be completed by the end of the day today. 

Additional resources arrived to the fire yesterday. These crews will focus on reopening the old fire lines from the 2008 Middle Fork Fire. Fire officials add that getting to the fire is difficult. 

Tonight the public can get information and ask questions about this fire. There is a community meeting at Prospect Community Hall at 7:00 pm. 

Road closures could still happen. The National Forest says it will share that information when it comes to it. It adds that hunting season is happening and hunters need to be aware of fires happening around them. 

(Update 10:30 9/8/2019)

UPDATE: The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest says the Gopher Fire is 230 acres. 

Right now firefighters are working on getting the fire lined. It will reopen fire lines from the 2008 Middle Fork Fire. 

There are 177 fire personnel on the fire, plus 7 helicopters. Firefighters are working on keeping the fire south of the Rogue River, east of the Middle Fork Fire, north of Gopher Ridge and west of Bear Face Butte and Seven Lakes Basin. Here is a map of the fire provided by the National Forest. 

The U.S. Forest Service says it is anticipating closures. It is waiting to hear what those are. We will update this article with closures when we get that new information. 

(Update 11:00 9/7/2019)

INITIAL REPORT: One of many lightning fires sparked across Southern Oregon this week has grown to cover roughly 200 acres, according to the latest update from the U.S. Forest Service.

Officials with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said that the Gopher Fire lies in a burn scar from the 2008 Middle Fork Fire within the Sky Lakes Wilderness, a remote area roughly between Prospect and Chiloquin.

The Gopher Fire formed from five smaller lightning fires growing together, USFS said.

"Terrain is steep," the agency said,"and the fuels are comprised entirely of snags, grass and brush."

Fire managers from a local Type 3 Incident Management Team are reportedly on the scene, with a helicopter and two air tankers "working it heavily" in hopes that the fire's forward growth can be slowed. More resources are on order, according to forestry officials.

"Fire managers are optimistic, with the weather prediction calling for temperatures 5-10 degrees cooler than we've been experiencing, and higher relative humidities," USFS said.

There are currently no closures in place in Sky Lakes Wilderness, although some trails on the west side near Alta Lake could be closed. The Pacific Crest Trail is not affected.

"Those wishing to access the Sky Lakes in the near future are encouraged to access from the East side to avoid fire traffic on access roads in the area," officials said.

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