Battle to contain big fires will rage for weeks, officials say

As firefighters grapple with new lightning-caused fires sparked overnight, they have targeted Sept. 1 as the date to contain the stubborn Big Windy Complex blaze by fire lines.

The three fires in the complex have grown together to create a burned area of about 12,650 acres this morning, fire officials said.

The five major fires sparked by the July 26 lightning storm have now burned more than 65,000 acres in southwest Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Forestry estimates firefighting costs at $35.2 million through Tuesday, not including air tanker costs on the Douglas Complex this week. Not all fires were included in the agency's estimate.

On the Big Windy Complex some eight miles northwest of Galice, firefighters continue to burn out areas between the fire lines and the main body of the fire. Burnout operations are expected to continue throughout the week. The Bear Camp Road on the south and the Rogue River to the north are being used as main fire lines.

There are 1,311 firefighters assigned to that fire. Suppression efforts have cost an estimated $6.5 million so far.

The Douglas Complex near Glendale has grown to more than 40,130 acres. The firefighting bill so far, not including air tanker costs this week, totals more than $19.4 million, officials said. The Farmer's fire, a blaze now in mop-up within that complex, had cost nearly $1.3 million as of Tuesday.

The Whiskey Complex outside Tiller is now about 10,245 acres, the fire information website reported. Two of the four fires in the complex have burned together into the 8,536-acre Whiskey fire, which surged Tuesday, leaping fire lines and roads and forcing crews to retreat. Crews are mopping up 1,682-acre Buckeye fire, focusing on hot spots on the edges, fire officials said.The Smith fire has been contained at 27 acres. No firefighting costs have been released

The Labrador fire half a dozen air miles west of Selma remains at a little over 2,000 acres. Costs for fighting the fire so far haven't been released.

The now-contained Brimstone fire cost about $8 million through Tuesday.

A new round of lightning storms peppered the region overnight, sparking more small fires. Some rain was reported in the region, albeit not heavy and in isolated areas. More thunder showers are expected through Friday, according to weather forecasters.

The weather could help or hinder the firefight, depending on how many new fires are ignited and how much rain is received, officials said.

More than 1,000 firefighters are trying to rein in the 7,182-acre fire burning along the Salmon River in far northern California. The fire is located about four miles west of Sawyers Bar. It is about 16 percent contained by fire lines. Costs so far are estimated at $4.2 million, officials said.

— Paul Fattig

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