Most of the fires burning around Southern Oregon continued to grow Saturday, and with temperatures back into the 90s and humidity levels dropping, fire officials stressed the potential for explosive fire growth.
But for the most part, reports out of the various command centers were guardedly optimistic Saturday.
SAWYER'S BAR, CALIF. — The Salmon River Complex, burning in the Klamath National Forest near the Northern California community of Sawyer's Bar, reached 1,800 acres Saturday, and national forest closures are in effect, fire officials said.
Crews were working late Saturday to reopen an old fire line on the north side of Sawyer's Bar to serve as a contingency for protection of the community.
Portions of the Salmon River, the Idlewild Campground and national forest lands between the Marble Mountain Wilderness and the North Fork of the Salmon River are closed.
Highway 93, Salmon River Road, remains closed at the Butler fire, located on the Six Rivers National Forest approximately 10 miles east of Somes Bar.
Also closed are Nordheimer Flat Campground and the river corridor from that campground to the mouth of Wooley Creek.
Late in the day Friday, a Type 1 heavy helicopter and hand crews battled a half-acre spot fire south of the Boulder fire on the opposite side of the Salmon River.
A California interagency incident management team arrived Saturday at 6 p.m. to assume command of the fire, bringing with them additional firefighters, support personnel and equipment.
On Saturday, officials estimated that the region's fires had reached 47,269 acres, roughly 7,000 acres more than Friday, and 5,295 people were engaged in firefighting efforts.
"We're making good progress on the lines," said BLM spokesman Jim Whittington, who is working the Big Windy Complex, a group of fires burning in the steep canyon country between the wild section of the Rogue River and Bear Camp Road.
The Big Windy Complex, which includes the Jenny fire, Calvert Peak fire and Big Windy fire, grew to 6,151 acres between Friday and Saturday, and is growing at a rate of about 500 acres to 800 acres a day, Whittington said.
"It's moving around a little bit, mostly burning out some secondary drainages and making some small, little runs," he said. "The Jenny fire is starting to move up some of the drainages. We've been trying to fly, but the smoke from the Douglas Complex is hindering us. It's in a real remote location, so it's hard to put eyes on it."
The fire was listed at zero containment Saturday, with 804 personnel engaged.
One piece of good news was that no fire spotting had occurred there as of Saturday evening, and the fire had not yet managed to find a way to jump across the Rogue River. Fire spotting refers to airborne embers that start new fires.
The largest blaze in Southern Oregon is the Douglas Complex roughly 7 miles north of Glendale. That group of lightning-caused fires had grown to 32,535 acres Saturday, an increase of 4,039 acres since Friday, and the 2,337 people working the fires had achieved 15 percent containment, said Emily Veale, public information officer for the Joint Information Center.
The biggest challenge for firefighters today and tomorrow will be the weather, Veale said.
"We're expecting the weather to be hotter and drier today with shifting winds. But the really good news is that we have been able to use our aviation resources and get some really great lines in," Veale said.
The National Weather Service in Medford predicted a high temperature today of 91, with 92 degrees predicted for Monday and 91 on Tuesday.
Two railroad trestles were destroyed by the Douglas Complex fires, but no other structures had been destroyed, said public information officer Dave Wells.
The Labrador fire, burning into and adjacent to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness about 13 miles northwest of Cave Junction, was still listed at 2,020 acres Saturday, the same as Friday, but containment was listed at zero.
The smoke was thick early in the day Saturday, which kept helicopters grounded, but around noon firefighters were able to do some water drops, said fire information officer Mike Wilson, who was speaking from the Incident Command Center at Lake Selmac.
"There are some hot pockets and areas of fuel loading that caused isolated torching, and those are areas the helicopters can go after with bucket drops.
"There hasn't been a lot of perimeter growth on the fire ... and there's been a lot of good prep work done, but at the end of the day, there is no containment on it and the fire is uncontrolled," Wilson said.
The Whiskey Complex, burning 6 miles east of Tiller, had reached 4,839 acres Saturday, but containment had climbed to 20 percent, said fire information officer Tom Berglund.
One of the fires in the complex, the 27-acre Smith Ridge fire, was considered fully contained and mop-up operations were underway, Berglund said.
"Things are really going well today," Berglund said early Saturday evening. "But right about this time every day for the last few days, we've had spotting. So we don't know if this is the calm before the storm or if we're starting to turn the corner on this."
Sixty-three people attended a community meeting in Tiller Friday night to learn about the Whiskey Complex fires and plans for containing it. Two hundred people attended a similar meeting on the Labrador fire Friday night in Cave Junction.
A community meeting will be held today in Merlin on the Brimstone fire, which had reached 2,298 acres Saturday. Fire officials reported 40-percent containment on the Brimstone fire, which is burning 10 miles northwest of Merlin.
The community meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Flemming Middle School, 6001 Monument Drive, in Merlin.
Reach Mail Tribune features editor David Smigelski at 541-776-8784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.