Rain, cool temps aid Rum Creek efforts

·3 min read

Sep. 12—Citing a combination of sturdy containment lines and a shift in weather that included light rain Sunday night and Monday morning, fire officials say they've "turned a corner" and are growing confident the Rum Creek Fire burning near Merlin won't grow any further.

Containment around the lightning-caused wildfire reported Aug. 17 near Galice reached the 75% mark, according to a Monday morning Inciweb update. The fire's footprint held at 21,347 acres.

Fire danger remained heightened Monday because larger fuels such as logs are still dry, according to an update from Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 6, which took over the fire Friday.

"Finer fuels" such as grasses and shrubs, however, are "not as critically dry" thanks to the rain that fell as part of a weather system that's a remnant of Tropical Storm Kay.

Fire officials said the light rain was helpful because it can soak into the ground and be better absorbed by vegetation than heavy rain.

Evacuation orders and warnings were unchanged as of Monday. According to the Josephine County Emergency Management evacuation map, three addresses north of Galice were on Level 3 "Go" evacuation orders displacing seven people and threatening one structure. Another 17 addresses south of Galice containing 17 structures and 43 people were on Level 2 "Be Set" evacuation orders requiring them to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

Some 889 personnel were working the fire Monday, according to the Inciweb update. Crews will focus on securing lines and continuing their mop-up and suppression efforts.

Firefighters Monday were on the lookout for wisps of steam in the fire zone that indicate residual hot spots inside the lines and along the perimeter, which for much of the fire is now between 200 and 300 feet into the fire line, according to fire officials.

The forecast calls for skies to clear this week, but temperatures are expected to be cooler and more humid for the next several days.

Some equipment, such as fire hoses, pumps and fittings, which were kept along the fire's perimeter during the red flag conditions in recent days, will be reallocated to roads and access points or transported back to the incident command post.

Progress on the Rum Creek Fire helped improve local air quality. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality removed Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Curry counties from its latest air quality advisory.

Medford's forecast calls for moderate air quality into Tuesday.

The last time the Medford air quality monitor registered a reading higher than moderate was one hour at unhealthy for sensitive groups at 4 p.m. Sept. 7.

Other parts of the state — Klamath, Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Lake, Lane, Malheur, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler counties — have air quality advisories expected to last until at least the middle of this week because of smoke from the Cedar Creek Fire near Oakridge and the Double Mountain Fire near Joseph, according to Oregon DEQ.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.