As firefighters scramble to build lines around the Big Windy Complex, they are keeping alive the memory of Jesse Trader.
"We are going to honor Jesse by doing the best job we can, by putting the fire down as quickly and safely as we can," said Jim Whittington, spokesman for the command center organizing firefighting efforts.
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Trader, 19, of Albany, died when the water truck he was driving hit an embankment and rolled on its top on Bear Camp Road early Tuesday morning. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
His death has hit firefighters hard, officials said, noting the close ties between those who fight fires in all capacities.
More than $35 million has been spent thus far battling the region's fires, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. That dollar figure does not include all the fires in the region, however.
At least 65,000 acres have burned, and smoke continues to choke the area.
The Big Windy Complex has grown to about 12,650 acres, with the three fires within the complex having grown together.
The main body of the fire is centered about eight miles northwest of Galice.
Both the Jenny and Calvert Peak fires grew together naturally, but firefighters torched a strip between the Big Windy and Jenny fires to help slow the latter fire, Whittington said.
"We needed to take the energy out of Jenny — stop it from making a big, big run," he said.
Firefighters continue to burn out areas between the fire lines and the main body of the fire. Bear Camp Road on the south and the Rogue River to the north are being used as main fire lines.
Burnout operations are expected to continue throughout the week, Whittington said. There are 1,311 firefighters assigned to that fire.
They have targeted Sept. 1 as the date to contain the stubborn blaze.
The forecast for some rain in the thunderstorm cells rumbling through the area doesn't bode well for firefighters, Whittington said.
"We're not expecting a lot of rain out of this," he said. "If we do get rain, it will bring winds we don't want."
A new round of lightning storms has been peppering the region, sparking more small fires. Fire crews were dispatched Wednesday to 13 small lightning-caused fires on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Of those, 12 were on the High Cascade Ranger District, while one was found on the Wild Rivers Ranger District.
Some rain was reported in the region, albeit not heavy and in isolated areas.
The Douglas Complex near Glendale has grown to more than 40,130 acres. However, the evacuation levels in the Wolf Creek area have been downgraded from Level 3 to Levels 1 or 2. Residents are now allowed to return to their homes along the roads linking Wolf Creek to the Grave Creek Bridge spanning the Rogue River. However, the road system is still closed to the public.
Meanwhile, a Level 1 evacuation notice was issued by the Josephine County Sheriff's Office Wednesday afternoon for the Galice Access Road north to the Grave Creek Bridge along Galice Road. That level means residents in the sparsely populated area are being warned of current or projected threats from hazards associated with the fires.
The advisory is a precaution to move people with special needs, mobile property, pets and livestock, according to the department.
The Oregon Army National Guard continues to staff roadblocks in the area.
The Whiskey Complex outside Tiller is now about 10,245 acres, with two of the four fires in the complex having burned together. That fire flared up late Tuesday, leaping the fire lines at one point and forcing fire crews to retreat, officials said.
The Labrador fire half a dozen air miles west of Selma is in the early stages of being mopped up at 2,020 acres. The Brimstone fire just northwest of Sunny Valley has been contained at a little over 2,000 acres.
Meanwhile, in Klamath and Lake counties, more than 500 lightning strikes were detected Tuesday and Wednesday. Fire crews were dispatched there to suppress some two dozen small fires.
In far Northern California, firefighters are scrambling to stop the 7,182-acre Salmon River Complex burning about four miles west of Sawyers Bar. Residents in the area near the fire were told late Wednesday by the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office to prepare for evacuation. The fire is about 16 percent contained by fire lines.
The Butler fire in the Orleans Complex had grown to more than 4,000 acres by late Wednesday afternoon in the lower Klamath River drainage near Somes Bar. Both fires were ignited July 31.
"These fires are human caused — they both started along the roadway," said Ken Sandusky, spokesman for the Klamath National Forest. "We are asking that people be as safe as they can out there."
Like his fellow fire officials in Southern Oregon, Sandusky urges anyone working or recreating outside to be extremely cautious to avoid igniting more wildfires.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.