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Crews encircle Cleveland Ridge fire

Crews on the Cleveland Ridge fire north of Shady Cove have reached 50 percent containment, according to Oregon Department of Forestry reports.

Oregon Department of Forestry crews estimate the fire is now about 530 acres, down more than 100 acres from Wednesday's 635. Firefighters believe they have the fire 100 percent lined and 50 percent contained with some fire lines spanning widths of up to 100 feet, according to a release issued Thursday evening. Overnight Wednesday crews had fire line widths of roughly 25 to 30 feet.

"They had a lot of great progress last night," said ODF public information officer Melissa Cano. "Some of those fire lines were extremely wide."

Residents along Taylor and West Fork Trail Creek roads, and along Highway 227 from about the 6400 block to the junction with West Fork Trail Creek Road are now under a Level 1 (Be Ready) evacuation notice, down from the Level 2 (Get Set) notices issued Tuesday.

Sections of West Fork Trail Creek Road remain closed. All other area roads remain open, but motorists are asked to observe caution. TouVelle State Park north of Medford, which is being used as a fire camp for crews, remains closed to the public, and motorists are asked to avoid the area to allow fire traffic better accessibility at park entrances and exits.

The fire started Monday afternoon. It started near West Fork Trail Creek Road, about five miles north of Shady Cove. Its cause remains under investigation, but ODF crews believe it was human-caused.

The 200 or so firefighters on scene today will focus on strengthening of control lines and mopping up perimeter hot spots. The north flank, which remains the blaze's most active portion, is a key area, Cano said.

More than 200 firefighters worked the fire Thursday night. Crews remained at the ready for new fires in the area Thursday, following a red flag warning remains in effect until Thursday evening because of high temperatures, low relative humidity and easterly winds expected in the region, according to the National Weather Service. The coverage area includes the western Rogue Basin, including the Illinois Valley, the Southern Oregon Cascades, the western Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Umpqua National Forest, and the Southern Oregon coast.

"That is definitely a really high priority," Cano said of crews being on the lookout for new fire starts. "We are fortunate to have had enough resources come our way."

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

Bird's eye view of the Cleveland Ridge fire, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Forestry.