Displaced residents in southern Oregon and northern California are starting to get good news – but it's coming at a trickle, and is sometimes enveloped by more bad news.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal's office reported that the urban fire just outside Medford, Oregon, is now 100% contained as of Wednesday afternoon. The fire marshal turned over command to local authorities in Jackson County. The Almeda Fire, which torched 3,200 acres, destroyed two small towns in southern Oregon but has now moved into the "stabilization" phase, as search and rescue teams continue to assess the damage and potential hazards.
Near Pasadena, California, firefighters reported Wednesday that they have prevented a wildfire from damaging the Mount Wilson Observatory, which played a pivotal role in early 20th-century astronomy.
The Bobcat Fire came within 500 feet of the observatory but Angeles National Forest officials say firefighters were able to protect the historic site.
The observatory is where astronomers confirmed that galaxies exist outside the Milky Way and that the universe is expanding. The blaze remains a threat to foothill communities but officials say the fire behavior has moderated.
Not all the news is good. Though Jackson County officials reduced the Level 3 evacuation areas, it also updated the number of residential structures lost in the fire, putting the number above 2,350; previously, it had been estimated at around 600 structures.
Earlier this week, the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office said that fires in the state – which continue to burn close to urban areas outside of Portland – were the worst they'd ever seen.
In northern California, the fire burning in the Klamath National Forest, which displaced the residents of Happy Camp, California, moved to 10% containment, up from 5% Monday. That fire has spread across the border into Oregon, but officials said Monday that if the weather pattern held, they felt confident they'd be able to contain more of the fire this week, though spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman declined to put any sort of timetable on full containment.
The city of Happy Camp, which had been evacuated when the fire burst out of control, has started to repopulate. The fire is estimated to be 136,000 acres.
Air quality, however, is still dangerous in both fire areas. In Medford, it was down to a 226 rating, which is considered "very unhealthy." But that's an improvement from earlier this week when it was regularly registering above 300, which is considered hazardous. Just 100 miles southwest of Medford in Happy Camp, air quality was clocking in at 346.
Freeman, who works with the National Parks Service, said Monday that fires up and down the west coast had stretched already thin resources even thinner.
"The resource drawdown is a really big deal," she said. "That we're seeing so much widespread fire, it's not just state or federal resources are strapped – it's across the board."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California, Oregon wildfires closer to 100% containment