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MailTribune.com
  • Fire climbs Table Rock

    Hikers evacuated after wind helps blaze spread uphill from hay field
  • What started out as a half-acre grass fire in a mowed hayfield just off Modoc Road on Thursday grew to 35 acres after spreading through brush and oak trees along the southern flank of Upper Table Rock, sending hikers scurrying down the hill.
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  • What started out as a half-acre grass fire in a mowed hayfield just off Modoc Road on Thursday grew to 35 acres after spreading through brush and oak trees along the southern flank of Upper Table Rock, sending hikers scurrying down the hill.
    Five hikers were evacuated off the trail by Jackson County sheriff's deputies, a spokeswoman said. Other hikers appeared to have headed back to the trailhead on their own accord after the fire started, said Oregon State Police Lt. David Gifford.
    About 60 fire personnel, three helicopters and two bulldozers attacked the Modoc fire, which sent a heavy plume of smoke billowing from the popular hiking destination.
    At least six Oregon Department of Forestry engines and crews with hand tools worked with a pair of engines from Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and a water tender to fight the blaze, which began at about 11:45 a.m.
    "When they first rolled up, they had a half-acre grass fire moving quickly through a dry mowed hay field," said Mark Northrop, deputy fire marshal with District 3, which was first on scene. "It was making its way out of the hay field into dry grass and oak brush."
    With plenty of fuel and uphill terrain and steadily increasing winds, the flames spread east along the hillside and burned nearly to the rim of the volcanic plateau.
    Northrop said there was no wind when the fire started, but westerly winds picked up to a steady 5 mph at noon and increased to 12 mph by 2 p.m.
    The fire was 100 percent boxed in by mostly bulldozer line and some hand line by about 4:25 p.m., Northrop said.
    About 100 firefighters were expected to work into the night mopping up the fire, he said.
    According to an ODF map of the fire, most of the land burned was privately owned, with a small portion of the fire slopping over onto U.S. Bureau of Land Management land.
    The hiking trail on Upper Table Rock will remain closed until further notice, Northrop said.
    Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and BLM were monitoring firefighting activities because of the sensitive nature of the area's habitat, Northrop said.
    Modoc Road was closed to traffic between its intersections with Table Rock and Antioch roads from about 1:30 to 5 p.m. while helicopters dipped water from ponds near the Rogue River and hustled back to douse the active flames.
    Northrop said the fire started in a rye and triticale field but its cause is still under investigation. Property records show the land is owned by Bear Creek Orchards.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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