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Firefighter injured as East Evans fire contained

A wildfire that grew rapidly late Friday was contained in the course of one day, but left one firefighter seriously injured in the firefight.

The firefighter was airflifted to a nearby hospital between overnight Friday and Saturday with serious injuries at the scene of the East Evans fire, burning in the Sams Valley area near East Evans Creek, according to Oregon Department of Forestry spokeswoman Natalie Weber.

The firefighter had been working on the northeast side of the fire, according to Weber. Details such as the firefighter’s name and what led to the injury were not available, but Weber said that as of Saturday evening the firefighter was still in serious condition.

The fire grew to a footprint of 300 acres as of Saturday, but Weber said that crews lined the fire entirely by 3:30 p.m. Saturday — roughly 25 hours after a structure fire in the East Evans Creek Road area spread to nearby wildlands.

Weber said air resources such as tankers and helicopters shifted from the Milepost 97 fire to help hand crews on the ground in Jackson County on Friday, allowing crews overnight to line about 70 percent of the fire by Saturday morning. She described the speed on the ground as “quick, great work.”

“Yesterday we were really blessed with a lot of air resources,” Weber said of the initial attack. “To have that temporary fire line helped us get the hand line.”

According to Weber and ODF releases, crews are facing snags, steep terrain, among other hazards at the wildfire.

Four tree fallers were among the 200 personnel working the fire, according to ODF Saturday, and largely focused on dangerous trees around the fire perimeter.

Resources battling the blaze included ten 20-man crews, ten fire engines, four bulldozers, six water tenders, one large air tanker, five single-engine air tankers and a lead plane making retardant drops, along with a team of eight helicopters: five high-capacity Type Is, two medium capacity Type IIs, and one flexible-duty Type III.

Other aircraft include one large air tanker, five single-engine air tankers and a lead plane that began making retardant drops as soon as smoke lifted this morning.

Evacuations levels remain in place as of Saturday near East Evans Creek Road and the 18500 block of Meadows Road, including 11 homes issued Level 3 “Go” evacuations, and 18 other Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuations.

The fire began 2 p.m. Friday with a working structure fire, according to ODF and earlier news reports, but further details as to the fire's cause remains under investigation. By the time crews got to the burning structure, it had spread to roughly five acres.

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

East Evans Fire photo issued by Oregon Dept. of Forestry Southwest Oregon District.
A Type I water dropping helicopter makes its way into the Evans Creek Fire Saturday.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune