Fire burning near Grants Pass is nation's largest

The Oak Flat fire, burning some 600 acres in a remote part of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest near Grants Pass, is the largest wildfire in the nation.

That means plenty of firefighters and equipment are available to battle the blaze, said veteran firefighter Tom Lavagnino, a spokesman for the national incident command team managing the effort to stop the fire burning in the Wild Rivers Ranger District.

"We are the 'number one' fire in the nation now we don't have any competition for resources," Lavagnino said, noting that is unusual for mid-August in the West. "There are usually 50 or 60 bigger fires going on this time of year."

The second largest fire in the nation is a 300-acre blaze in Oklahoma, he noted this morning.

More than 500 firefighters are deployed to the Oak Flat fire burning in rugged, steep terrain northwest of Selma in the lower Illinois River drainage near the confluence of Briggs Creek. The fire is about 20 miles southwest of Grants Pass.

Because of the number of firefighting vehicles and firefighters in the area, a closure order went into effect today for the immediate area surrounding the fire. Road access to the region, a popular area to swim, is via the narrow Illinois River Road west of Selma.

The fire, which officials believe was human caused, was reported Friday morning. It is burning in heavy timber growing in steep, rocky terrain, Lavagnino said.

"We're saying it's around 600 acres but really don't have a more accurate handle on acres yet," he said. "We've had some spot fires burning."

— Paul Fattig


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