170 structures threatened in Oregon Gulch fire

The Oregon Gulch fire, burning in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, continues to grow rapidly, threatening as many as 170 structures. Multiple outbuildings have been destroyed by the flames, though the homes on the previously-evacuated Copco Road stretch were spared, said public information officer Don Hickman. In roughly 24 hours, the fire has surged from its original reported size of 10 acres to more than 11,000, rolling through forest and grasslands. It continues to burn in a southeast direction out toward Klamath County and over the border into California. That fire alone has 350 personnel assigned to it, with more expected, ODF officials said. It is considered 5 percent contained. The Oregon Gulch and Salt Creek wildfires, located at opposite ends of the Rogue Valley, have been grouped together into one wildfire complex. A single attack team made up of firefighters from the Oregon Department of Forestry, CalFire and the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office is being established to fight the Beaver Creek Complex. Both fires ignited during a Wednesday lightning storm. A combined attack force of six type-2 hand crews, four camp crews, 12 engines, 10 dozers and eight water tenders joins 11 helicopters and several retardant-dropping air tankers. ODF officials said the two fires were grouped because of the vast number of small fire starts that also have popped in between them across Jackson County, thanks to a recent lightning storm that shot out thousands of air-to-ground strikes. "They made really, really good progress on those over the last day or two," said Jen Warren, ODF public information officer. The Salt Creek Fire, located 15 miles north of Gold Hill, has grown to 108 acres, per ODF officials. It is considered 30 percent contained. The blaze's east side has been lined using a bulldozer, but crews on the west side are having more difficulty, due to steep terrain. Drivers in the area of East Evans Creek, West Evans and Antioch roads are urged to use caution while driving there as fire crews are working and traveling there. — Ryan Pfeil and Mark Freeman

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