Rum Creek Fire tops 15,000 acres

·3 min read

Sep. 1—The Rum Creek Fire grew to 15,635 acres with 1% containment Thursday, and firefighters surged to protect new areas where the fire crossed lines on the eastern flank — the side closest to Merlin.

Merlin remained under a "Level 1 — Be Ready" evacuation alert as of Thursday evening. However, the more dangerous "Level 2 — Be Set" to leave at a moment's notice alert was near Merlin's western outskirts.

A wide area in the Galice and Rand areas remained under a "Level 3 — Go Now" evacuation alert as of Thursday evening, and everyone needs to have evacuated the area.

Fire mapping Thursday showed more hot spots in the Galice area, but firefighters extinguished nearly all hot spots within 200 feet of buildings in and around Galice. Firefighters are continuing work to suppress fires and protect structures, fire managers said.

So far one residence and two other structures have been destroyed by the blaze. That destruction occurred several days ago, not from new spread of the fire.

Galice remained partially surrounded by the fire Thursday, with fire burning to the north and east.

Crews spent Wednesday reconfiguring containment lines where fire had crossed lines near McKnabe Creek, using a combination of direct and indirect attack.

"This is rough country," Joe Hessel, incident commander for Oregon Department of Forestry Team 1. "Every foot, every chain, every mile of line we complete is a big deal."

On Thursday, firefighters were targeting the McKnabe Creek drainage, which is steep, deep and full of snags. The area was too unsafe for firefighters to work there overnight from Wednesday to Thursday. Firefighters continued to build lines in the area Thursday, fire managers said.

Firefighters and bulldozers are preparing fire lines south of Grave Creek for a tactical firing to burn up fuels in coming days, fire managers said.

Overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, firefighters successfully burned a pocket of residual fuel near Ennis Riffle along the Rogue River. They found no spot fires south of the river. The work helps secure the southern edge of the fire, fire managers said.

On Friday afternoon or evening, a dry cold front will move into the area, bringing slightly cooler temperatures but gusty winds from the northwest. Firefighters will monitor the weather closely and watch for wind-driven flare-ups, fire managers said.

Wind coming from the northwest pushes the fire toward the Merlin and Grants Pass areas.

Firefighters continued work to build more lines around the fire, including extra sets of lines to separate Merlin from the fire's footprint. Work to clear fuels from around rural homes adds to those safety measures.

"They're going to continue to pre-plan that area just in case the fire comes out of the box the wildland firefighters are making around it," Mark Corless of the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office said Thursday.

Structural protection continues in residential areas threatened by fire, with firefighters assessing homes, wrapping structures and installing sprinklers, and clearing flammable material from roofs and gutters, on and around decks and areas against homes.

Firefighters made progress to secure the western edge of the fire, located downriver from Rainie Falls. They carried out tactical burns to connect already burned areas with fire lines. The complete line, when mopped up and secure, is expected to stop the fire from moving west, fire managers said Thursday.

For updates on evacuation zones, the latest mapping of the fire's footprint, information about emergency evacuation shelter and more, see facebook.com/josephinecountyEM.

For air quality updates, see oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map.

On Thursday evening, air quality was in the moderate range in Medford and Shady Cove, the unhealthy for sensitive groups range in Talent and Ashland, and in the unhealthy range for Grants Pass.

For general information about the Rum Creek Fire, including operations and acreage updates posted each morning, see inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8348/.

To sign up for Citizen Alert evacuation alerts via phone, text or email, visit rvem.org.

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