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Quick work snuffs out peril from Tolo Road fire

CENTRAL POINT ' Armed with shovels, picks and garden hoses, residents of Tolo Road were ready Tuesday to defend their corner of the wildfire-plagued Rogue Valley.

The valley's hazy curtain of smoke made the five-acre wildfire hard to spot, but brothers Robert and Joe Davis grabbed their shovels when they saw a helicopter hauling a water bucket swoop over their home.

The two rushed across the street where fire had blackened grass on the side of the road. The Davises were ready to dig firelines, but firefighters refused the brothers' offer, saying they didn't want anyone out in the field who couldn't be monitored by radio.

If it gets close enough to somebody's house, they're not going to care who pitches in, said Robert Davis.

Approximately 26 homes west of Interstate 5 off Tolo were in danger when the fire made a run for an oak-choked hillside after scorching a field of dead grass. But firefighters dug lines around the entire blaze in 34 minutes with the help of two bulldozers, said Dan Thorpe, Medford unit forester for the Oregon Department of Forestry. Crews were mopping up the fire Tuesday night.

The fire remained under investigation, but it apparently started around 5:20 p.m. on the side of Tolo Road just south of where it crosses over the freeway. There was no obvious cause for the blaze, Thorpe said.

When I first got out here, it was pretty close, and it was moving away, said Tolo Road resident Ren? Snook.

The road stood between Snook's home and the blaze, but she still hosed down her parched yard and trees flanking the gravel driveway. Snook was sick in bed when a neighbor came knocking on her door with the news.

Judy Smur-zynski was mowing the lawn of her Blackwell Road home and wondering when the valley's pall of smoke would pale when she saw the fire trucks. She jumped in her car and followed, warning the Snooks.

Within about 10 minutes, 40 firefighters from ODF and Jackson County Fire District No. 3, 10 engines and a helicopter were on their way to controlling the fire.

But Smurzynski wasn't convinced that the summer's fire danger is winding down.

It's time to start getting (the forest) cleared out at least to where people can get to (fires) and they don't spread so fast, she said.

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A helicopter gets ready to drop water on a fire Tuesday evening off Tolo Road in Central Point. Firefighters dug lines around the blaze in 34 minutes. Click the photo to see a larger (16k) version. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven