Firefighters gain upper hand on Wards Creek Fire

·3 min read

Aug. 4—Firefighters made excellent progress on the Wards Creek Fire between Gold Hill and Rogue River, completely encircling it with fire lines overnight, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported Thursday morning.

Overnight mapping showed the fire was at 17 acres. Located near Wards Creek Road, the fire is burning on private and Bureau of Land Management property, ODF said.

During the night, firefighters were able to lay enough hose to reach the whole fire with water, and they began mop-up operations. Getting water to the site has been a challenge because the fire is burning on a steep slope with dense brush, ODF said.

On Thursday, three 20-person hand crews, a water tender, a bulldozer and ODF supervisors were assigned to the fire. Aircraft will be used as needed. Crews will continue mopping up and focus on securing and holding containment lines. Due to the steepness of the ground, mop-up operations may take longer than usual as firefighters work to be thorough, ODF said.

"The health and safety of our firefighters remains a top priority, and breaks will be a focus on the line," ODF said in a news advisory. "Temperatures are expected to be slightly cooler today, although the high remains in the mid-90s. Significantly less windy conditions should also decrease fire behavior, and not challenge crews as much as yesterday."

On Wednesday, a firefighter was taken to Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass for treatment of a heat-related illness.

ODF said Thursday no structures are currently threatened. Smoke may still be visible while mop-up operations continue.

The ODF Southwest Oregon District is charged with protecting 1.8 million acres of private and BLM land in Jackson and Josephine counties.

On the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, no new fires were reported overnight, and firefighters will continue to search for any holdover fires that emerge from previous lightning storms. Quick detection of holdover fires will be key in the coming days and weeks as temperatures continue to hover in the 90s and triple digits, with winds becoming gusty at times, Forest Service officials said.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is continuing to help with fires on the Klamath National Forest, including the 4,626-acre Alex and Yeti Fires complex. An infrared detection flight found another new fire start on the Klamath National Forest overnight. Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is coordinating to provide additional resources, Forest Service officials said.

Fire danger is extreme on both ODF-protected and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest land.

The National Weather Service forecasts highs of 98 degrees Thursday, 95 degrees Friday, 96 degrees Saturday, 102 degrees Sunday and 99 degrees Monday in the Medford area. Skies will be mostly clear to sunny, with light winds.

Air quality was in the good category at noon Thursday in Ashland, Talent, Medford, Shady Cove and Grants Pass. For air quality updates, see oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.