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  • Updated: Oregon Gulch fire tops 21,000 acres

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  • Update: A community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. today at the Greensprings Fire Station, located at the corner of Hyatt Lake Road and Highway 66. For information, call 541-825-1599.
    The Oregon Gulch fire burning south of Highway 66 in the area of the Soda Mountain Wilderness has burned 21,088 acres and destroyed three houses, according to the latest fire report from the Oregon State Fire Marshal.
    On Friday, erratic, gusty winds on the Oregon Gulch fire caused extreme fire behavior and rapid fire spread. In addition to burning the houses, the fire has consumed five outbuildings and multiple vehicles, fire officials said. It is considered 5 percent contained.
    An infrared flight last night revealed an accurate location of the fire perimeter, with acreage reported at 21,088. Fire officials said 270 structures are threatened in Oregon and California.
    The Oregon Gulch fire is part of what has been named the Beaver Complex, which also includes the Salt Creek fire burning 20 miles northwest of Medford. That fire had little activity yesterday and is reported at 146 acres, and fire personnel were able to complete line construction around the fire perimeter. It is considered 30 percent contained. Both fires were started by lightning on July 30.
    Due to the complexity of the Oregon Gulch fire, a unified command structure with Oregon Department of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office and CAL FIRE has been established.
    The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is maintaining a Level 3 evacuation order for homes in close proximity to the Oregon Gulch fire, which is about 15 miles east of Ashland. The affected area is Copco Road, from the 6000 block to the Oregon border.
    In addition, a Level 1 evacuation order for the area went into effect at 9 a.m. today. Level 1 is an awareness level, alerting residents to be prepared in the event an evacuation is necessary. The Level 1 area runs from the junction of Highway 66 and Hyatt Lake Road to the 22000 block of Highway 66. The Jackson County Sheriff's Office will be administering the evacuation alert.
    Evacuation levels are established as "Be Ready, Be Set, Go!" For more information, see http://www.oregon.gov/osp/SFM/pages/commed_wui.aspx.
    Little change is expected in the weather pattern today. It will be hot and dry with light and variable winds becoming west to northwest. The humidity will fall below 25 percent around 2 p.m. and remain low until 8 p.m. It will be sunny and then become partly cloudy in the afternoon. The temperature will reach 97 degrees, fire officials said.
    Resources for the fire complex include 22 Type 2 hand crews, six camp crews, 50 engines, 17 dozers, nine water tenders, and overhead personnel. Total personnel is 788. Air resources include 14 helicopters and air tankers.
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