Cooler temperatures help firefighters on Big Windy Complex

Southwest Oregon is not out of the woods yet when it comes to the wildfires that have threatened homes and filled the air with smoke since late July, but firefighters say they are gaining the upper hand.

The 24,125-acre Big Windy Complex, burning along the lower Rogue River some 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass, is now 40 percent contained, according to Mary Lunsford, spokeswoman for the fire command center in Merlin.

"We made a lot of progress on the fire yesterday," Lunsford said Tuesday. "With the cooling weather we've had, we've been able to do a lot of direct firefighting," meaning the crews can attack the wildfire head-on as opposed to building fire lines.

The recent rain also allowed firefighters to reduce the area being burned out to a containment line, officials said.

"We will be doing more burning out, but it won't be happening for a couple of days," Lunsford said. "It has to dry out a little before we can resume."

There are 1,065 firefighters assigned to the blaze. When weather permits, helicopters will make bucket drops on hot spots in the northeast section of the fire, Lunsford said.

The expectation is that the lightning-caused fire will be fully contained by Sept. 7, she said.

The 48,679-acre Douglas Complex fire centered about seven miles north of Glendale is now nearly 90 percent contained, officials said.

The 17,891-acre Whiskey Complex, located six miles east of Tiller in the Umpqua National Forest, is now 100 percent contained.

The Labrador Fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest six miles west of Selma has burned 2,023 acres with no containment percentage reported. It is creeping along in an area burned by the 2002 Biscuit Fire, where fall rains are expected to douse the fire, officials said.

All the fires were sparked by lightning storms on July 26.

Containment is expected by the end of Tuesday on all of the small fires that were ignited by lightning in the past week on the forest, said Forest Service spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons.

One new fire was detected and suppressed on Robinson Butte near Fish Lake on Monday, Gibbons said, noting that two had also been discovered Sunday.

"Fire remains a threat in the forest," she said.

In far Northern California, the 14,771-acre Salmon River Complex fire is now 95 percent contained. However, the Corral Complex fire in the Trinity Alps Wilderness has grown to 11,732 acres and is only 5 percent contained. It was sparked by lightning on Aug. 10.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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