Fire quickly contained

Aggressive firefighters armed with two helicopters and aided by an irrigation canal beat back a Monday wildfire in the hills north of Ashland near where a large blaze began 50 years ago.

Firefighters from the Oregon Department of Forestry and three local fire districts kept the 11:38 a.m. fire contained and limited to 3.4 acres amid brush and thick timber behind 2253 N. Highway 99, authorities said.

Two state forestry helicopters were nearby and jumped on the initial attack, aided largely by water sucked from a nearby Talent Irrigation District canal, state forestry spokesman Brian Ballou said.

The helicopters were able to draw water from the canal and fly a mere 200 feet to drop their load atop the flames, Ballou said. Ground crews also used pumps to gain access to the water, making for a quick and handy attack, Ballou said.

"That was an excellent water source," Ballou said. "That proved to be a huge asset for us."

Fire crews from Jackson County Fire District No. 5 as well as from the cities of Ashland and Medford joined the attack, District 5 Engineer John McEvoy said.

While grass rigs attacked the flames, fire engines were on hand to protect structures in the area, McEvoy said.

At no time did flames reach any structures, McEvoy said.

"It was a pretty good knock-down," he said.

The fire was contained to a strip of land east of the TID canal, McEvoy said.

The cause of Monday's fire remained under investigation, Ballou said.

It was in the same vicinity where a fire broke out on Aug. 8, 1959, quickly sweeping through five miles of the Ashland watershed and amazing Ashlanders as it burned 3,800 acres. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival played that night as the red glow of flames bathed the festival's outdoor crowd.

Monday's fire was the 346th of the year for state-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties, Ballou said. The fire acreage to date on non-U.S. Forest Service lands was 205 acres, he said.

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