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Josephine County wildland blaze sees no overnight growth

Favorable conditions and familiar terrain helped keep a sudden Josephine County wildfire in check overnight, wildland firefighters said.

The Gold Canyon fire roared to life just before 5 p.m. Tuesday beneath a sky already partially smeared with smoke from the Gap fire burning in Northern California. The blaze, which began outside Selma off Highway 199 near Gold Canyon Drive, exploded to 120 acres, prompting Level 3 "Go" evacuation notices for homes between Reeves Creek Road and Wildpark Lane.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter for evacuees at the Rogue Community College gymnasium in Grants Pass. Oregon Department of Transportation crews closed Highway 199, then reopened one lane, guiding motorists through with a pilot car.

But firefighters started to get the upper hand as the evening wore on, thanks to calm winds and cool overnight temperatures.

"It was very familiar terrain," said ODF public information officer Melissa Cano, referencing the mid-August fire that destroyed several structures near the area. "It was more of a well-oiled machine."

On Wednesday morning, Cano said the fire did not push past the 120-acre mark, and that the size will likely be revised and reduced later in the day following a firefighter perimeter walk.

"Everyone is pretty confident it’s going to come up less than that 120," Cano said.

No structures were destroyed. Wildpark Lane and Terrace Place residents are now under a Level 2 "Get Set" advisory, while Reeves Creek Road is under a Level 1 "Get Ready" advisory.

Fire officials said the attack from the air was key in beating back the flames, with numerous fire-smothering drops from heavy air tankers and helicopters.

The fire is considered fully lined and 20 percent contained. A structural protection strike team originally made up of numerous fire agencies from Jackson and Josephine counties has been turned over to the Illinois Valley Fire District. About 200 firefighters remained on scene today. Both lanes of the Highway 199 stretch near the fire are back open, though crews ask motorists in the area to be cautious, as there will still be numerous emergency vehicles parked on the roadside. 

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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

Flames from the Gold Canyon fire send up curtains of smoke. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Forestry, Illinois Valley Fire District.