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UPDATED: Oregon Gulch Fire 20 percent contained

This story was updated at 8:50 a.m.

Crews on the Oregon Gulch Fire say they have made some progress on containing the energetic blaze.

The lightning-sparked fire, which makes up a majority of the Beaver Complex, grew to 36,568 acres Sunday night, with 27,104 acres burning in Oregon, and 9,464 in California, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported. Firefighters have begun line construction on the fire’s northeast side, working their way from the Jackson/Klamath county line toward the Oregon-California border. Crews are also building backup lines that follow road systems, preventing fire spread to the north and east.

“The fire was relatively quiet yesterday, so firefighters and other equipment were able to get in and do an awesome job overnight,” said fire spokesman Don Hickman.

The fire was about 20 percent contained as of 10 p.m. Sunday. The fire has destroyed six homes and threatens 270 more, along with 50 additional outbuildings.

Crews remain wary of the dry conditions, Hickman said. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of Southern Oregon and Northern California today, due to the chance for additional lightning strikes around the region and erratic winds up to 50 mph. A chance for scattered, heavy rains and flash flooding is also included in the warning, which starts at 11 a.m. today and is in effect until 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Special task forces are still assigned to protect homes in the Greensprings area, with aid from Lane, Benton and Linn counties. Highway 66 is open, and the public can access the Greensprings area.

“The public is encouraged to use extra precautions when traveling on narrow, fire acess roads,” an ODF message reads. “Fire engines, bulldozers and tenders will be in the area. At times, it may be safest to pull over or stop to allow fire traffic to pass. Use headlights at all times. Roads are narrow, dusty and smoky.”

A level one evacuation for residents living between the 11000 and 222000 blocks of Highway 66 in Oregon remains in place. This is for residents on the Ashland side and does not include Keno residents. Parts of Copco Road, and the Klamath River Canyon from the John C. Boyle Dam to the California border remained under a level three evacuation.

The much smaller Salt Creek fire, which has burned 155 acres 20 miles northwest of Medford, is 80 percent contained.

There are currently 1,280 personnel working on the Beaver Complex, with firefighters from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, and CAL FIRE. Oregon resources alone include 40 hand crews, 44 engines, 22 dozers, and 17 water tenders, with assistance from 14 helicopters and two air tankers.

There have been three cases of heat exhaustion reported among firefighters, Hickman said. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the use of federal disaster relief funds to fight the flames in Siskiyou and Modoc counties.