TRAIL, Ore. — By Friday morning, fire officials confirmed that at least one home succumbed to flames in the Elk Creek area between Trail and Prospect.
"As of last night, structures were being lost in the Elk Creek Road area," said a statement from the Umpqua National Forest. "The number of structures lost or damaged has yet to be determined."
This marks the first confirmed loss of a structure in Southern Oregon from the widespread lightning-caused wildfires that began on July 15.
Conditions on Thursday caused the merger of some of the most dangerous fires still burning in Jackson and Douglas counties, with the 10,000-acre Miles Fire joining with the 6,000-acre Sugar Pine Fire, as well as the 1,800-acre Goodview Fire. Winds pushed flames down into the Hawk Creek drainage, spotting across Elk Creek Road near Burnt Peak and over a control line near Flat Creek and Ragsdale Butte.
The rapid increase in fire activity sparked hurried evacuation orders—both widespread Level 3 "GO" evacs near Elk Creek and Sugar Pine roads, and Level 2 "Be Set" warnings near Lost Creek Creek Lake and Highway 62.
Crews will be working on Friday to confirm whether or not the original control line has been compromised by spot fires. If so, they will fall back to a more defensible secondary line along the west branch of Elk Creek.
Crews say many residents have stayed despite being in Level 3 "GO" evacuation zones.
"When we saw fire we left and we couldn't wait to get back. It's home. Real simple. We've lived right in this place for 45 years," said Elk Creek resident Jerome Hammond.
It remains to be seen how fire officials will classify these fires now that they have merged. The South Umpqua Complex used to describe an array of fires primarily in Douglas County, although the Snowshow and Miles fires both moved south into Jackson. The Sugar Pine Fire (also consisting of several smaller fires) burned primarily in Jackson County. Now major elements of both fires have joined.
Officials expect a continuation of problematic weather conditions in the area. Although temperatures have cooled somewhat to 70-80 degrees and humidity is up to 25-38 percent, wind gusts of up to 25 mph coming from the northwest are expected to continue today.