The Taylor Creek fire grew to nearly 27,000 acres as of Tuesday morning and threatened a popular park on the Rogue River, while firefighters worked to hold a fire line on Galice Road, west of Merlin. Air quality throughout the Rogue Valley continued to registered at unhealthful levels off and on during the day.
According to a report from the incident command team on the site, fire activity increased late Monday on the northern area of the fire. The fire grew by about 2,000 acres between reports issued Monday and Tuesday mornings.
"As the fire approaches the Rogue River, crews will continue firing operations to secure primary line," the update said. "Strategic firing operations are used when conditions are favorable."
The fire has not crossed the Rogue River, although it was burning across the Merlin-Galice Road from Indian Mary Park on the Rogue River. The park was evacuated Monday afternoon.
The fire, the largest of about a half-dozen major blazes currently burning in Southern Oregon, was reported as 20 percent contained. There were 1,165 firefighting personnel on the fire, along with 81 fire engines, 21 water tenders, 21 bulldozers and nine helicopters.
Multiple aircraft are being used on the northeastern corner of the fire, including aircraft from the Oregon National Air Guard.
"The fire is backing down toward Galice Road and firefighters are working to hold the road as a fire line," the update said. "Crews will continue to prep the Bear Camp Road, with the intent of keeping the fire south of it. Crews continue to scout areas further from the fire."
The update said smoke from the fire helped cool the area and "moderated fire behavior." It noted that while temperatures are expected to cool down in the coming days, there is also an increased chance of wind.
The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office has expanded low-level evacuation notices for residents near the Taylor Creek fire west of Grants Pass and Merlin. The new order issued Monday evening lists a Level 1 “Get Ready” notice for residents living east of the Rogue River near Merlin and south of the Rogue River near Grants Pass.
The order affects an area roughly 2 miles wide and 12 miles long, extending from Highway 199 near the Applegate River to about 2 miles north of Galice Road, northwest of Merlin.
The Sheriff's Office also closed the Rogue River to all recreational use, including boating, rafting and swimming, between Hog Creek boat ramp and the Galice boat ramp.
The Hog Creek boat ramp is open for taking watercraft out of the river and the Galice boat ramp is open for putting watercraft into the river.
The Robertson Bridge boat ramp is closed for firefighting operations.
Galice Road was blocked Monday between Hellgate Bridge and Taylor Creek Road. Residences on lower Galice Creek Road and Galice Road in the road blockage area are now on Level 3 "Go" evacuation.
The Level 3 evacuation area includes Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Lodge and the Hellgate River Lodge, where Hellgate Jetboat Excursion customers are normally served dinner.
The Level 1 evacuation notice lets residents know they should be aware of the fire danger in the area and monitor emergency services websites and alerts. Josephine County residents can sign up for the county’s emergency notification system at www.rvem.org.
Air quality continued to be unhealthy for much of Southern Oregon. Cave Junction in Josephine County registered "hazardous" air quality at about noon today with a top reading of 327 on the Air Qiuality Index. It had dropped to the "very unhealthy" level with a 277 reading at 3 p.m. Shady Cove (185), Ashland (151) and Klamath Falls (177) all registered in the "unhealthy" range at 3 p.m., while Medford (139) and Grants Pass (114) were in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" range.
Medford registered an "unhealthy" reading of 164 at 10 a.m. today, while Shady Cove topped out with a "very unhealthy" 264 at 8 a.m.