Fire crews mopping up Little Butte fire

After looping the 467-acre Little Butte blaze with a fire line, crews today began mopping up hot spots in the interior.

Located about 16 miles east of Medford in the high Cascade Range a half dozen miles southwest of Fish Lake, the fire is now more than 75 percent contained, said Paul Galloway, a spokesman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The goal is to fully contain the fire by Sunday.

Estimated suppression costs of the fire, discovered on Monday, is about $1.4 million, he said. Cause of the fire is under investigation.

The number of firefighters on the blaze has been cut from a high of 540 down to about 120 firefighters. Firefighting equipment still on hand includes three engines and a bulldozer.

The fire camp near Howard Prairie reservoir is also being dismantled today, Galloway said.

The lion's share of the area scorched by the fire was national forestland, although roughly a fourth of it included private parcels, he said. No structures were burned and no firefighting injuries have been reported.

Initial attack by both Oregon Department of Forestry and national forest firefighters stopped the fire from growing into a behemoth blaze, he said.

"There was a lot of really good, hard work that managed to keep it to this size," he said. "It's in a really steep terrain. And the weather conditions were lined up to have this thing go large."

He cited the near triple-digit high temperatures coupled with extremely dry burning conditions.

"But they hit it real hard and managed to keep it in place," he said, noting the forest staff has an excellent working relationship with the local ODF crews. Forest Service and ODF crews co-managed the firefighting effort.

"It came off really well, considering the possibility for a big fire right now," he said.

Fire danger in both southwest Oregon and northwest California remains extreme, with fire weather warnings posted through the weekend. "We are now at the peak of our fire season — any ignition source will start a fire," Galloway warned.

Paul Fattig is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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