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Crater Lake's West Rim Drive reopens

Cooler temperatures and recent rains allowed fire managers today to lift evacuation notices around the Flounce fire near Lost Creek Lake as well as near the Spruce Lake fire within Crater Lake National Park.

Progress of 730 firefighters working nine helicopters, 23 engines and 17 water tenders Thursday night and Friday morning led to the lifting of the level one "be ready" evacuation notice for residents in the areas of Evergreen Drive and Lewis Road.

"It's completely out of the picture, which is great," Oregon Department of Forestry spokeswoman Melissa Cano said. "Now it's trying to juggle all of the remaining lightning fires."

At Crater Lake, fire activity slowed enough that the National Park Service lifted its evacuation notice this afternoon for park headquarters and Rim Village and reopened West Rim Drive and the Rim Trail, according to the park service. However, motorists were banned from stopping between Discovery Point and North Junction.

That section of Rim Drive between the lodge area and the North Junction had been closed since Aug. 4 because the fire was moving toward the caldera. Also, eight other trails or sections of trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail between Highway 62 and the Dutton Creek Trail intersection, remained closed, according to the park service.

Discovered July 29, the lightning-caused Spruce Lake fire was listed today at 4,681 acres and 31 percent contained, with 384 people assigned to it.

The Flounce fire near Lost Creek Lake is estimated at 690 acres and is 40 percent contained, according to ODF reports Friday morning. An updated estimate is anticipated around 7 p.m. Though lightning was observed in the area Thursday night, the electrical storm had "little effect."

Multiple lightning-sparked fires were quickly snuffed out overnight, but two ODF fires continue to burn.

The Nugget fire, just outside Gold Hill, is estimated at between 5 and 10 acres, and is bringing visible smoke into the town. As ODF works to get a line around the fire, the agency is working with Jackson County Fire District 3 and Rogue River Fire District 1.

The Grizzly Peak fire, a series of five small fires scattered through the area, isn't yet threatening any homes, according to Cano. Two of the five fires are each at an acre, one is estimated at half an acre while the last two fires have been knocked down and lined.

Cal Fire is helping ODF backfill the Siskiyou Summit area as ODF focuses its attention on Grizzly Peak Friday.

The Double Day fire burning near North Obenchain Road and Butte Falls Highway was fully lined Thursday night, and estimated at 7-1/2 acres. Threats of lightning grounded one large air tanker Thursday afternoon, but crews were able to continue working the fire with four other aircraft after the storm passed.

"Helicopters were able to divert while the storm passed through," Cano said. "They hammered it and helped get it out quick."

More lightning is forecast for tonight and tomorrow night, according to Cano, though the weather system is on its way out of the area.

"Lightning forecasts are always a concern because with lightning comes new fire starts," Cano said.

Two fires near Crater Lake National Park are holding steady, though weather continues to be a challenge, according to U.S. Forest Service reports.

The Spruce Lake fire remains estimated at 4,734 acres and 31 percent contained as of Friday morning, but 383 personnel battled 36 new fires caused by lightning strikes overnight. The new fires ranged from a tenth of an acre to 20 acres. The storms dropped less than a tenth of an inch of rain on the fire.

Helped by cooler temperatures, the Blanket Creek fire near Prospect remains at 4,800 acres with 39 percent containment, and a hand line around the northwestern edge continues to hold, according to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Some areas received 3/4 of an inch of rain overnight, though more lightning is forecast Friday.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

A helicopter battles the Flounce fire burning near Lost Creek Lake Tuesday. [InciWeb photo]