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Onion Mountain fire 40 percent contained

GRANTS PASS — Recent lasting moisture from last week's rains over Josephine County's Onion Mountain Fire have crews confident the blaze's growth has mostly come to a stop.

The fire, 15 miles west of Grants Pass, had held unchanged for 24 hours as of Sunday afternoon at 4,105 acres with 40 percent containment. It flared up Sept. 13. The cause of the fire is still not known.

At 6 p.m. Sunday the Josephine County Sheriff's Department was to lift level one evacuation advisories for all areas previously under watch. These spots include the Pickett Creek area, including Pickett Creek Road, West Pickett Creek Road and all connecting roads; all areas north of the Robertson Bridge on the Rogue River's west side; Shan Creek Road from Riverbanks Road to the west; Taylor Creek Road from Galice Road, including the connection to U.S. Forest Service Road No. 2509, which enters Highway 199 at the top of Hayes Hill; and Galice Creek Road from Galice Road to Soldier Camp.

The Sam Brown, Briggs Myers and Horse Camp campgrounds, and portions of U.S. Forest Service roads 2500, 2509 and 2706 remain closed.

"(Fire crews) have made really good progress the last few days," said Dave Schmitt, public information officer Oregon Interagency Management Team No. 1.  "That rain we got a few days back, that moisture has lasted a lot longer than (we) thought it would."

The weather forecast is in crews' favor this week, too. The National Weather Service reported a gradual cooling for the area through at least Thursday, with rises in humidity levels and a chance for rain Tuesday through Thursday. Crews anticipate full containment by Friday.

Saturday's forecasted winds didn't show up, and crews were able to focus on strengthening existing fire lines and monitoring the interior. Some hot spots have been located and extinguished 60 to 100 feet inside the fire's perimeter, but they present no serious threat, officials reported.

"There's still potential out there, but we're pretty confident," Schmitt said. "The work we're doing is really going a long way toward containing this thing."

The reins on controlling the fire will be turned back over to a more minimal type 3 management team, Schmitt added. On Sunday, there were still 972 personnel beating back the flames.

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

Onion Mountain fire 40 percent contained