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Hugo fire catches feds' attention

Fearing a greater disaster if it’s left unstopped, federal officials are chipping in on the Hugo Road fire, which already has destroyed two homes and more than a dozen other structures.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday authorized two grants: one to help with firefighting costs at the state’s request, the other for mitigating the chance for loss of life and property from future fires.

Crews on Tuesday continued to gain ground on the Hugo Road fire, which ignited 10 miles northwest of Grants Pass Sunday night and burned through nearly 200 acres by the following day.

One of the two homes destroyed was that of Russell Wytcherley and his two daughters, according to a GoFundMe page set up by friend Brytanie Foote, who said that although the Wytcherleys safe, the fire “took everything” from them.

“His home is completely gone and all the memories and irreplaceable possessions inside!” Foote said on the page, which in the span of a day had raised more than $4,000 toward a $20,000 goal.

So far, the fire has destroyed 13 outbuildings in addition to the two residences. Two other outbuildings and three residences also have been damaged.

More than 600 residents evacuated their homes after the fire started, but many are returning; 84 structures remain threatened, Oregon Department of Forestry officials said.

Gov. Kate Brown declared the blaze a conflagration, green-lighting additional resources and personnel from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.

FEMA Region 10 Administrator Mike O’Hare approved a Fire Management Assistance Grant for Hugo after determining “the fire threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster,” according to a media release. That grant pays for 75 percent of the state’s firefighting costs, including fire camps, equipment and mobilization and demobilization activities.

The Hugo Road fire also will be eligible for a Hazard Mitigation Grant, which provides $566,667 “to enact mitigation measures that reduce the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters,” the grant website reads.

Tuesday night, the fire was 60 percent contained. It had not budged from its 199-acre size previously reported Monday night, according to ODF. The fire started at about 7:15 p.m. Sunday on private lands in Hugo. Its cause was as yet unknown.

Crews continued to mop up the fire’s perimeter, creating 125-foot buffers around structures and roadway edges. Electricity is also back on for area residents who had lost it because of the fire.

“Today’s primary goal is to extend the mop up area to at least 200 feet,” an ODF news release said Tuesday. “Firefighters want to ensure that the continued afternoon winds do not pose a threat to our current control lines.”

Still fighting the fire were 211 firefighters, 12 engines, five water tenders and five dozers. Remaining fire marshal personnel began traveling back home at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Here’s a rundown of progress on other area fires:

Klondike

On Tuesday, the lightning-sparked mega-fire near Selma had grown to 112,307 acres and was 42 percent contained, fire officials said. The nearby Taylor Creek fire was recently fully contained.

Crews estimate they will have full containment on the Klondike by Halloween, according to the Incident Information System website.

Miles

The Miles and Columbus lightning-caused fires, which have grown to a cumulative 52,841 acres, are 62 percent contained. Full containment is estimated by Sept. 30.

Natchez

The 29,492-acre Natchez fire, burning just over the border in Northern California 15 miles southeast of Cave Junction, remains at 70 percent containment. Full containment is expected by Oct. 15.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or at 541-776-4468.


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