Crews battling the Klondike Fire burning southwest of Grants Pass are bracing for a difficult weekend as the 62,000-acre blaze to continues to grow.
"(Saturday) is looking like it might be our challenging day with the warmest temperatures, lowest relative humidity and gusty northeast winds," fire spokesman Sam Harrel said.
The Klondike is now the largest of the wildfires burning in Southern Oregon and demands the most firefighting attention.
It grew by another couple thousand acres from Thursday, and by Friday morning it was 62,731 acres and 15 percent contained.
There remain 1,600 fire teams working the Klondike and Taylor Creek Fires. More firefighters were shuffled to work on the Klondike Fire as it outpaced other fires in the region.
Harrel said a surge of hot shot crews arrived mid-week to assist in firefighting efforts.
"These guys are trained and fit to work in this rugged terrain out here," he said.
Firefighters are focusing their efforts on the southeast corner of the fire, where it crossed the Illinois River.
Crews are working to strengthen the containment line between the fire and the communities of Selma, Wonder and Wilderville.
Fire operations section chief Russ Long said the area is expecting northeast winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph.
"It's going to push and drive the fire across the slope, away from values at risk, but it has our attention," Long said. "We have all our our firefighters working hard on the containment lines and prepare to defend them."
Harrel said the winds should blow the fire away from homes and property in the southeast and towards the Chetco Bar Fire scar.
"The nice thing about that is the Chetco fire burned up a lot those fuels out here so the fire's not going to get the chance to get into that area and move much," he added.
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The smoke from the wildfire has blanketed the region, leading to unhealthy air qualities and hazy skies.
"The smoke, as uncomfortable as it is, has really been helping us out," Harrel said.
The smoke acts as a lid on the fire, when it lifts or is blown away, fire activity picks up.
The Josephine County Sheriff's Office announced a Level 1 "Be Ready" evacuation Thursday for all residences on the west side of U.S. Highway 199 between 8 Dollar Mountain Road and the Oregon/California border.
See this post for the most detailed information on evacuations.
Here's a roundup on all the other fires burning in the area.
Taylor Creek Fire
The Taylor Creek Fire brought the most closures and evacuations last week and hasn’t gone away by a long shot, but it hasn’t seen the same amount of growth as the Klondike.
The Taylor Creek Fire is now more than 52,222 acres.
After a long stretch of little progress, containment grew from 45 to 52 percent Friday.
As containment improves, more crews are being shuffled over to the Klondike Fire.
Winds out of the northeast are expected to reduce smoky conditions Friday and Saturday, which will allow aircraft to more effectively assist with suppression efforts, fire officials said.
Bear Camp and Peavine Roads remain closed to traffic due to firefighter activity. Officials said the ongoing risk of trees and other debris falling on roads continues to threaten traveler safety.
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Fire officials said good news came in the form of lowered evacuation levels on the north edge of the Taylor Creek.
The Josephine County Sheriff's Office lowered evacuation levels in the Galice area, allowing a handful of residents who had evacuated to return to their homes. Power was also restored to some areas.
Miles / Columbus / Snowshoe / Roundtop Fire complex
This collection of fires, formally known as the Sugar Pine and South Umpqua complexes, is located north of Medford near Prospect.
The complex reached 46,512 acres and was 30 percent contained as of Friday.
The Miles Fire, the largest in the complex, has spread to 32,519 acres and is 25 percent contained..
Fire operations spokesman Pete Glover said crews are watching uncontained portions of the blaze closely.
"We're waiting for the fire to dictate what our next move is," he said.
The Columbus Fire is at 9,762 acres and is 22 percent contained, the Snowshoe Fire is at 3,816 acres and is now 100 percent contained.
"It doesn't mean the fire's out," Glover said. "It just means our lines are secure."
Fire officials said that with 65 days since the last meaningful rainfall, the area is in the midst of "moderate drought" conditions, and the parched vegetation is at high-risk of igniting.
Though the fire led to some area closures, officials stressed that the region is not completely shuttered to tourists.
For updated evacuation levels due to this fire, see this map.
"Southwest Oregon remains open for business and ready to welcome visitors," officials said. "Please check with local chambers of commerce and businesses as there are many opportunities for recreationalists, including access to Lost Creek Lake through Joseph Stewart State Park."
The Natchez Fire south of Cave Junction grew to 18,618 acres as of Friday, with containment increasing slightly to 57 percent.
Fire personnel anticipate an increase in activity as warm, dry weather persists.
Breezy conditions are expected to trigger group torching and short uphill runs in patches of conifer trees.
Officials said the abundance of dry timber, chaparral, grass and understory is serving as perfect fuels from the growing fire.
Fire managers said their main goal is to keep the fire away from Forest Road 48. Crews will be conducting burns to provide "as big of buffer as possible" between the blaze and residences.
Several areas surrounding the blaze are under evacuation warnings, and closures remain in effect on the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Klamath National Forests.
The Hendrix Fire burning southwest of Ashland has held steady at 1,082 acres and grew to 90-percent containment as of Friday.
Fire crews will continue to patrol, monitor and mop up the edge of the lightning-caused fire.
Officials said the perimeter of the fire will likely remain the same until the area gets some rain.
Crews are expecting to fully contain the fire by September.
Meanwhile, firefighters are pulling surplus equipment off the fireline and redirecting their resources to other fires in the area.
A chipper is also being used to grind vegetation piled along roads used during fire suppression activities.
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest area closure for the southern portion of the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District remains in effect. Detailed information and a map of the area closure are available here.