Whatever the weather, fire crews reach for containment

Depending on her mood, Mother Nature has the option of helping firefighters suppress the fires burning in southwest Oregon.

In thunderstorms predicted later this week, she can turn on the shower to help douse the existing wildfires. Or she may just zap the local forests with dry lightning, sparking more fires.

"There is a veiled promise of some rain with those storms," observed Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District.

"But we will have to wait and see," he added. "The most I've seen is a 30 percent chance of rain."

A dry lightning storm would make life more difficult for the roughly 5,000 firefighters fighting the fires that have burned more than 50,000 acres in the region, fire officials said.

The largest fire remains the 35,633-acre Douglas Complex which was 16 percent contained this morning, according to Emily Veale, a spokeswoman for the joint command overseeing the battle to halt the blazes. The Whiskey Complex has grown to 7,368 acres and is 25 percent contained, while the 2,372-acre Brimstone fire is 80 percent contained, she added.

Fire managers expect the Brimstone fire to be contained by Wednesday, Aug. 7. Because of the success fighting the Brimstone fire, many of the firefighters from that blaze have been deployed to other fires, officials said. Management is being turned back to a local team today.

Neither the 9,192-acre Big Windy complex in the lower Rogue River drainage nor the 2,020-acre Labrador fire in the Illinois River drainage west of Selma are contained by any fire lines, Veale said.

This morning's fire reports predicted the Big Windy won't be contained until Sept. 1. Officials haven't predicted a containment date for the Labrador fire yet.

Those fires were all ignited by a largely dry lightning storm on July 26. No homes have been burned by the fires.

Meanwhile, the smoke from the fires is making it difficult to make an aerial assault on the fires, officials report.

In northern California, a 5,248-acre fire is burning in the Salmon River drainage about four miles west of Sawyers Bar. The human-caused fire, which began July 31, is 4 percent contained.

— Paul Fattig

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