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Snow falls, fires subside across Southern Oregon

Snow dusted Mount Ashland and a bit more fell on parts of Crater Lake overnight as light rain continued to wet the lower valleys and further calm area wildfires.

"And so it begins. The first flakes of the season!" a Mt. Ashland Ski Area Facebook post said, complete with an early-morning photo of blowing snow.

Crater Lake National Park's entrance center and parts of the rim got as much as half an inch of slushy snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Rain showers continued to fall at lower elevations across southwest Oregon. On Tuesday morning, Curry County had received anywhere from one-quarter to three-tenths of an inch over a 24-hour period. Parts of the Illinois Valley received a half inch, and Evans Creek received four-tenths of an inch. Paltry amounts of one-hundredth to five-hundredths of an inch fell across the Rogue Valley and Grants Pass.

Higher up, the Cascades and Siskiyous received anywhere from three-tenths to six-tenths of an inch.

"A lot of it was over the higher terrain," said meteorologist Mike Petrucelli.

The region should continue to see rain Wednesday afternoon and night as more cold air creeps in from the north, with wet weather diminishing Thursday.

The wet, cool weather is helping wildland firefighters battling several lightning-sparked blazes burning across multiple counties. The 190,237-acre Chetco Bar fire — Oregon's largest fire — burning in Curry and Josephine counties was considered 68 percent contained Tuesday, according to InciWeb, the federal Information Incident System website. 

"The current weather pattern is more favorable for firefighters, and the area forecast includes more than an inch of rain in addition to cooler temperatures and higher humidity over the next few days," a daily bulletin said Tuesday.

The 63,516-acre High Cascades Complex burning near Crater Lake is 32 percent contained, while the 36,303-acre Miller Complex burning near Applegate Lake is 65 percent contained.

The wet weather has prompted U.S. Forest Service officials to reduce campfire restrictions on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River, which is between Grave Creek and the mouth of Watson Creek.

Campfires can be built in national forests, but only in constructed fire rings made of concrete or metal located in designated recreation sites, according to a news release. Stoves powered by propane or other liquid fuel sources are permitted, as well. Fires built on the Wild & Scenic section are permitted "only within a raised fire pan or similar device that will contain the fire and its residue, free of natural vegetation."

Wildfire smoke has greatly diminished with the onset of cool, damp weather. Southern Oregon air quality stations in Medford, Ashland, Shady Cove, Grants Pass, the Applegate, Cave Junction, Roseburg and Klamath Falls all registered "good" air quality Tuesday.

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

A firefighter on the Chetco Bar fire works on burnout operations near Meadow Creek and Pistol River. [photo from Inciweb]