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Onion Mountain fire now at 1,950 acres

GRANTS PASS — Residents living near the Onion Mountain fire, burning 13 miles west of Grants Pass, have been told to be ready to evacuate after the blaze mushroomed to 1,950 acres Monday.

No one had been told to leave as of Monday evening, officials said. But someone claiming to be from the Josephine County Sheriff's Office has been calling residents and telling them they must evacuate, the sheriff's department reported.

Officials sent out a notice stressing the calls were not coming from the sheriff's department. Should evacuations become necessary, deputies in uniform will inform residents in person, they said. An informational number for residents to call has been set up at 541-474-5305.

A level one evacuation advisory — telling residents to be ready to leave at a moment's notice — was issued Monday for residents living in the Pickett area, including Pickett Creek Road, West Pickett Creek Road and all connecting roads; north of Robertson Bridge on the Rogue River's west side; all of Shan Creek Road from Riverbanks Road west; Riverbanks Road from Limpy Creek Road to Robertson Bridge; and all of Taylor Creek Road (U.S. Forest Service Road 25) from Galice Road, which includes the connection to the 2509 Road that enters Highway 199 at the top of Hayes Hill.

The level one advisory could rise to level two — get set — by today, officials said.

Parts of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are closed because of firefighting efforts. The Sam Brown Campground and Horse Camp, Briggs and Myers campgrounds, and U.S. Forest Service roads 2500, 2509 and 2706 are all closed.

Crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry and the county's Rural/Metro Fire Department will visit residents in the evacuation advisory area. 

"(The fire's) still got quite a distance to travel before it gets to any populated areas," said ODF spokesman Brian Ballou.

The Onion Mountain fire started Saturday, and Sunday afternoon winds fanned the flames. On Sunday night, the fire continued to push toward the northeast. Four air tankers, seven helicopters and more than 300 firefighters were fighting the flames. There was no containment as of Monday. Original estimates placed the fire at a little more than 500 acres, but that number nearly quadrupled following infrared scans of the fire area.

"(Crews) didn't have a clear idea about its actual size, much less its true shape," Ballou said. "Now they have a clear picture."

An incident command post for the Type 2 Incident Management Team, which assumed command early Monday, was set up in the Sprague Seed Orchard in Merlin.

A slow-burning fire also continues to burn in the Sky Lakes Wilderness area outside Prospect, though crews are making gradual progress on its containment.

Crews have a containment line drawn around 75 percent of the lightning-caused 790 fire, which has chewed up more than 3,000 acres. Officials estimate that blaze will be fully contained Sept. 30, according to the Incident Information System website.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

An air tanker drops fire retardant over the 1,950-acre Onion Mountain fire west of Grants Pass on Sunday. AP Photo / John Luerding