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Weather helps firefighters in battle to contain 4,000-acre Onion Mountain fire

Rain and cloud cover that drifted over a 4,000-plus acre wildfire outside Grants Pass was a welcome sight to firefighters working to extinguish the flames on the ground.

The Josephine County Sheriff's Department reported firefighters were able to hold and improve existing lines while constructing new ones on the fire's south and east flanks. The blaze is now 8 percent contained and has grown to 4,077 acres. There are 780 firefighters working at the scene.

The chance for showers and cooler temperatures continues today, allowing firefighters additional chances to contain the flames further. Oregon Incident Management Team No. 1, the team assigned to fight the fire, reported today's high temperature is not expected to surpass the low-70s mark, with humidity levels as high as 55 percent. While cloud cover has been good for ground crews, it, combined with smoke to limit air support because of poor visibility. Water bucket drops from helicopters and retardant strikes from air tankers could be significantly reduced today, similar to the grounding of many aircraft Wednesday.

A group of firefighters devoted to structure protection has done an assessment of homes and other structures closest to the fire's edge and will stay in case the flames continue to push north and eastward, threatening the buildings.

A level-one evacuation advisory — be ready to leave at a moment's notice — remains in effect for residents of the Pickett Creek, Shan Creek, Riverbanks Road and Taylor Creek Road areas. Access to the fire area is limited and shut off at certain points with multiple road blocks.

A 24-hour air quality average for Grants Pass and Medford remains at "moderate," according to data from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

A public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. today at Flemming Middle School, 6001 Monument Drive, Grants Pass, to provide information on firefighting efforts.

— Ryan Pfeil