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  • Rain slows flames in Big Windy Complex

    Air quality improves some in Medford area
  • Some rain fell over the Big Windy Complex fire during recent thunderstorms, but the presence of moisture was a mixed blessing.
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  • Some rain fell over the Big Windy Complex fire during recent thunderstorms, but the presence of moisture was a mixed blessing.
    Officials at the Big Windy, burning eight miles north of Galice, said minor rainfall did slow the flames, but it also prohibited firefighters from performing burnout work to bolster fire lines.
    "It's a double-edged sword," said Joel Brumm, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
    Crews still managed to hold the fire lines overnight and into Friday because of the rain.
    "It doesn't sound like they got much in the way of wind or lightning," Brumm said.
    A red flag warning from the National Weather Service remained in effect through 11 p.m. Friday because of the potential for additional thunderstorms that could kick start new wildfires. A chance for additional thunderstorms continues today.
    "It looks like it starts dying down a little bit (after that)," said meteorologist Misty Duncan.
    National Weather Service data shows that less than half an inch of rain fell in the Rogue Valley Friday evening.
    However, hail rained down on the Douglas Complex, which could aid the firefighting efforts there, according to meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis.
    "That stuff melts so that's good for the fire," he said.
    Air quality in parts of Jackson County showed some improvement Friday because of thinned smoke. Medford's hovered in the "moderate" range — meaning individuals with sensitive conditions such as asthma could be affected — most of Friday, according to data from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Cave Junction and Shady Cove stations reported moderate quality most of Friday, too. Grants Pass air quality was listed as "unhealthy for sensitive groups" Friday afternoon.
    The Big Windy Complex, which consists of several lightning-sparked fires burning near the Lower Rogue River, had grown to 14,364 acres in size by Friday afternoon, and is 10 percent contained. Crews estimate 100 percent containment by Sept. 1. More than 1,200 personnel are combating the spread. Helicopters were able to assist with heavy water drops as smoke thinned Thursday.
    The fire's eastern edge has spread to the lower slopes of Howard Creek, which crews continue to monitor. Crews will continue to work on lines north of the river and on the eastern and northeastern flanks. Firefighters have blackened an area around the Black Bar Lodge to protect it from advancing flames and have started similar burnout work near Zane Grey's cabin.
    The Big Windy is one of three major lightning-sparked fire complexes burning in the region. The Douglas Complex, burning north of Glendale, grew to over 44,000 acres Friday, according to data from the Incident Information System. More than 3,100 firefighters continue to fight the blaze, which is about 32 percent contained. A closure of Cow Creek Road from Riddle into the fire is still in effect, and several nearby communities have been evacuated.
    The Whiskey Complex outside Tiller is about 10,600 acres and about 40 percent contained. More than 900 personnel are working on that fire.
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