Lightning-sparked fire drags on

Firefighters on Monday continued to reinforce fire lines and mop up hot spots at a stubborn wildfire sparked by a lightning storm last week near Trail.

The 60-acre Berry Rock fire, burning in rugged terrain about three miles northeast of Trail, was one of several fires started by the storm, said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District.

"It hasn't grown any — we're getting less smoke and fire now," he said late Monday morning. "We're doing quite a bit of mop up now."

More than 100 firefighters have been attacking the fire. Anyone driving on Elk Creek Road is warned to watch out for fire vehicles and their crews.

The fire had proved a challenge to firefighters because of the steep terrain, thick brush and many dead trees mixed in the stands of conifers and hardwoods, he said. Burning material rolling downhill posed a constant danger for the firefighters, he noted.

There are no roads into the area, preventing fire engines from reaching the blaze, he said.

However, four helicopters employing large buckets dropped water on the fire while an air tanker from the Medford tanker base repeatedly dropped fire retardant on the fire, he said. Bulldozers were also deployed to build fire lines.

No structures were threatened.

Three other smaller "sleeper" fires were also discovered and mopped up over the weekend, bringing to a dozen the number of fires triggered by the lightning storm. Sleeper fires are those which smolder for several days after being ignited before taking off.

A reconnaissance plane was patrolling the region Monday in search of any more sleeper fires that may be popping up, Ballou said.

The department firefighting crews provides wildfire protection on U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state, county and private wildlands.

The storm also sparked five small fires in the High Cascade Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, including three in the Sky Lakes Wilderness area. All of those fires have been extinguished, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the fire danger, which is now moderate, is expected to rise on Thursday because of the ongoing dry, hot weather, Ballou said. The U.S. National Weather Service office at the Medford airport calls for temperatures in the 90s for the rest of the week in the Rogue Valley.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or

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