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Southern Oregon wildfires: Taylor Creek Fire grows to 31,600 acres but progress made

The Taylor Creek Fire is now 30 percent contained but a stretch of the iconic Rogue River is still closed.

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — It was a mixed bag on the Taylor Creek Fire on Wednesday.

The fire grew to 31,600 acres after making a run to the west, while at the same time fire teams made good progress in containing the fire and protecting structures in the Rogue River and Galice area.

No structures were burned at Indian Mary Park, a popular campground along the Rogue that had been evacuated earlier this week. And firefighters have been able to hold the blaze and not allow it to jump the river.

The Taylor Creek Fire is 30 percent contained. It remains about three miles from the popular river village of Galice.

“We were happy with how it went yesterday,” fire spokeswoman Lisa Rice said. “We finally got a break in the weather — it was cooler with higher humidity. That gave firefighters a chance to get in and do good work, even mopping up the area.”

However, fire teams do anticipate closing Bear Camp Road — a road that allows access to the coast and to take-out spots from the Rogue River — at some point in the future.

“We’re trying to keep Bear Camp open as long as we can,” spokesman Kale Kasey said in a morning briefing. “But at some point there will be a closure on Bear Camp and we’ll try to do that as efficiently as possible.”

The Rogue River remains closed from Hog Creek Boat Ramp to Galice, which represents about 7 to 8 river miles, including the stretch though popular Hellgate Canyon. However, the vast majority of the river remains open — see this post for more details.

In less positive news, the fire did make a run to the northwest on Wednesday. Fire teams are planning to make a concentrated effort on Chrome Ridge today to slow the fire’s spread toward the other major wildfire in the area — Klondike.

Taylor Creek is the largest of the fires to have grown out of a lightning storm in July, but there remain eight large wildfires and multi-fire complexes burning in the area that have impacted air quality across southwest Oregon.

Around 600 to 700 people remain evacuated from their homes due to the fire, officials said.

Credit: Incident Command Team
Map of Taylor Creek Fire as of Thursday afternoon (Photo: Incident Command Team)

The most up-to-date information on evacuation levels can be found on this map or by calling 541-474-5305.

For details on evacuation levels — as they change — follow the Josephine County Sheriff's Office.

For the most current map and evacuation areas, see this page.

Below is an update on all of the major fires in Southern Oregon.

Klondike Fire (evacuations near Selma and Illinois River)

The wildfire burning on the east side of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, known as the Klondike Fire, continued to grow this week. As of Wednesday evening, the fire burned 19,530 acres with just 5 percent containment.

The fire has spread out of the wilderness and fire teams are primarily looking at how to stop the blaze from moving east toward Selma.

"Our primary focus is protecting values along the Illinois River Road and developing good fire lines to protect the U.S. Highway 199 corridor and towns such as Selma," Noel Livingstone said in a morning briefing Monday.

Firefighters prepped forest roads and old Biscuit Fire fire lines to control fire to north and east. Heavy smoke grounded air operations.

Crews also wrapped historic structures in Store Gulch and McCaleb Ranch for protection as a precaution.

A level 3 'Go' evacuation order remains in effect for the Oak Flat area on Illinois River Road. Illinois River Road from mile post 2.5 to Oak Flat is at a level 2 evacuation level meaning “get ready.”

In addition, a number of trails, including the Illinois River Trail, have been closed.

See closure details here.

In an update Tuesday, fire officials said the air mass over the fire is seeing a very gradual cooling trend. Anticipated increases in humidity over the next several days could dampen fire activity and smoke emissions, but poor air quality continues to persist in communities near the fire.

Natchez Fire (closures near Siskiyou Wilderness)

The Natchez Fire, located 15 miles south of Cave Junction, showed more growth earlier this week.

The fire grew to 6,988 acres as of Wednesday evening and is continuing to spread on the north and south ends of the fire.

Crews worked to connect Forest Service roads using low-intensity burn outs on the north side.

By the end of the day Monday, firefighters had managed to increase containment from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The community of Sunstar has been placed in a level 1 evacuation “get ready” status. Two homes at the end of South Fork Road were also given evacuation orders Wednesday.

Fire closures are in place in both the Klamath National Forest and the Rouge River-Siskiyou National Forest.

See this page for the latest updates.

South Umpqua Complex (evacuation warnings near Tiller)

This complex of three larger wildfires and numerous smaller ones grew to 16,428 acres as of Wednesday with 18 percent containment.

The Miles Fire, now top priority in the South Umpqua Complex, continued to push east toward Hawk Mountain. Multiple spot fires were sparked by wind-blown embers near the southeast perimeter. The fire has covered 4,605 acres with 16 percent containment.

After the fire made a large push to the southeast, residents in the Elk Creek area were given level 3 "go now" evacuation notices.

Sheriff's officials said residents "should not delay leaving to gather any belongings or make further efforts to protect your home. This may be the last notice you receive."

Crews were shifted away from the Snowshoe Fire, covering 3,816 acres with 96 percent containment, where personnel were mopping up and searching for hot spots.

Wind gusts carried embers sparking multiple spot fires half a mile out of the Columbus Fire southern edge over the weekend. The fire has covered 5,703 acres. After days of zero containment, the blaze is now 5 percent contained.

Relief may come in the form of cooling trend starting Wednesday night as a cold front passes from the Pacific Ocean over the Cascades, bringing temperatures in the 70s and humidity in the 40s going into the weekend.

Closures remain for a campground and roads in the Tiller Ranger District.

For more details on the South Umpqua Complex, including more details on closures, click here.

Sugar Pine fires

The 19 small- to medium-sized wildfires burning north of Prospect and Tiller on either side of Oregon Highway 62 south of Crater Lake continue to spread.

Collectively they have burned more than 6,505 acres as of Wednesday.

Sustained high temperatures, gusty afternoon winds and low humidity have continued to fan the flames.

The Sugar Pine Fire grew by hundreds over acres since the weekend, covering a total of 4,513 acres and remaining zero percent contained. The Goodview Fire continued to grow to 1,708 acres and is also zero percent contained.

Northwest winds, temperatures nearing 90 and increased airflow as the shroud of smoke clears could increase fire activity, officials said. The weekend is expected to bring more humidity and cooler weather.

Firefighters worked on improving multiple fire lines north of homes by setting up hoses and sprinklers and moving flammable items away from houses.

Fire personnel numbering over 830 remain assigned to the fire.

Other active fires in the area include:

Round Top — 154 acres, 48 percent contained

Union — 105 acres, 68 percent contained

The report states that all other fires on the north end of the High Cascades Ranger District have been contained.

For more information, visit this page.

Grave Creek / Pleasant Creek fires (evacuations near Wimer)

Crews battling flames in the Grave Creek and Pleasant Creek fires burning near Wimer were able to slow growth this weekend. The fires are part of the 8,886-acre Garner Complex Fire.

With teams working to secure perimeters and smoke from the Klondike Fire helping drop temperatures, the complex was 70 percent contained as of Wednesday evening.

Despite the positive news, officials are remaining cautious and are keeping evacuation orders in place.

"While the threat to homes on the Garner Complex has diminished, evacuations remain in place for the safety of the residences and fire crews," officials said in an update Monday night.

Fire teams have the Pleasant Creek Fire at 836.

The Grave Creek Fire have torched a total of 7,816 acres.

More than 1,400 personnel are battling the flames. Crews are mopping up areas, working with infrared cameras to spot pockets of heat and flying over the region to monitor the flames.

For detailed information, click here.

Hendrix Fire (evacuation warnings near Ruch)

The Hendrix Fire southwest of Ashland, in the Little Applegate River area, remains at 1,082 acres and is now 70 percent contained as of Tuesday.

The southeast corner remains without a firm containment line due the to steep, challenging terrain, according to officials. Crews are scouting the area for opportunities to fully suppress the blaze.

A helicopter and 267 personnel are assigned to the blaze.

Officials moved back the expected containment date to the end of August due to the lack of containment lines on the southeast corner.

A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail closed by the fire has been reopened.