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Firefighters contain 40% of blaze as winds die down

Firefighters battling the 6-day-old Klamathon fire can expect to get a slight break today from the stiff winds that have dogged ground attacks and funneled smoke over the Siskiyou Summit and into the Rogue Valley.

On the morning after some communities near the fire’s south flanks were allowed back to their homes, the National Weather Service forecast calls for wind gusts to drop from 30 mph Monday to 5 mph today and even lighter winds Wednesday, despite fire-area temperatures reaching as high as 90 degrees.

“It’s not going to be red-flag, but it’s not going to be nice,” weather service meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis said. “Winds will be dying down even more Wednesday.”

The winds also will shift from coming in from the southwest to the north, pushing smoke away from the Rogue Valley, if it holds up, Nieuwenhuis said.

“As long as the winds remain north, us in the valley should be pretty good with smoke,” he said.

The change in weather began late Monday as firefighters’ main challenge was fortifying the fire’s northeast flank in steep and rugged terrain.

The fire grew just 1,250 acres to 36,500 acres and was listed late Monday at 40 percent contained.

It was listed Monday morning at 35,250 acres and 30 percent contained.

The shifting winds and progress firefighters made on the fire’s southeast area allowed the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office to lift some area closures, fire public-information officer Celeste Scott said.

Communities around Copco Reservoir will remain evacuated and Copco Road will remain closed for fire trucks to move to and from the reservoir, Scott said.

Interstate 5 remained open all day Monday and was expected to remain that way today.

The Klamathon fire, however, continues to potentially threaten houses and other structures in and around the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Mount Ashland area and Colestin.

The fire so far has destroyed 34 houses and 43 out-buildings, killed one person and has rising costs of $13.2 million since it ignited Wednesday, according to California fire officials.

About 2,800 people remained assigned to the fire late Monday, manning almost 200 fire engines along with 21 water tenders, 14 helicopters, 26 bulldozers and 80 20-person hand crews, according to CalFire.

The Medford Air Tanker Base at the Medford airport has supplied 370,000 gallons of retardant dropped from tankers, according to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

There is no threat to the city of Ashland, according to the city website.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or at 541-776-4468.

Photo by Tobias CarrierTobias Carrier shared this photo, one of several he took of the Klamathon Fire about 11 p.m. Friday, July 6, from Mount Ashland Road and Old Highway 99.