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Grants Pass hiker still missing in fire zone

There is no organized search effort ongoing for a Grants Pass man who went hiking in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness a month ago. Two days after Michael Woods set out, the area was ravaged by Oregon's largest wildfire this season.

It's not possible for search and rescue crews to go looking for Woods while fire still rages in the area, said Lt. Brian Anderson of the Josephine County Sheriff's Department.

With the fire activity, hopefully he was able to find some shelter ' a creek, river drainage, an abandoned mine, Anderson said.

It's too early to guess whether the 32-year-old logger could have survived, he added.

Woods reportedly left for a three-week backpacking excursion on July 11, when he was last seen at Miami Bar on the Illinois River. Lightning ignited a fire in the Florence Creek drainage west of Selma on July 13. Now 338,891 acres, the fire jumped the Illinois and burned through the path Woods reportedly had chosen to travel.

He was there at the wrong time, said his mother, Gliela Woods of Grants Pass.

Gliela Woods said she didn't realize her son may have been hiking through fire-ridden forests. When she hadn't heard from him for a month, she called the friends who were supposed to have brought him home. They told her that he had been hiking in the Illinois Valley where all the fires were burning.

Up until then, I had worried that he might run out of food or something, she said.

Gliela Woods reported her son missing to the sheriff's department on Tuesday, but said she knows there's not much searchers can do. Helicopter pilots fighting the fire have been asked to keep an eye out for Woods, Anderson said.

Employed with a helicopter logging operation in Roseburg, Woods reportedly had planned to hike along the Illinois and come out near the coast where he would call a friend to pick him up. He had a tent, a sleeping bag, food and a fishing pole in his backpack, his mother said. This was the first backpacking trip that he had planned for an extended period of time, she added.

A 6-foot, 160-pound white man, Michael Woods has dark brown hair and green eyes. Anyone with information of his whereabouts is asked to contact the Josephine County Sheriff's Department at 541-474-5123.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .