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Fire near Eagle Point at 500 acres

One day before Southern Oregon officially entered “extreme” fire danger, firefighters flocked to a fast-spreading wildfire outside Eagle Point that quickly grew to 500 acres.

The fire was reported at 3:13 p.m. Thursday in the 2000 block of Worthington Road about 5 miles northeast of Eagle Point.

By 4:30 p.m., the wildfire had grown to more than 50 acres, by 6:15 p.m. the fire had grown to more than 150 acres, according to Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Brian Ballou. By 7:15 p.m. the fire was still growing, and Level 3 “go” evacuations were ordered for the 1500 to 3200 blocks of Worthington Road, and by 8 p.m. the fire had grown to 500 acres.

“It’s putting up a good column of smoke,” he said.

Worthington Road is closed at the Brophy Road intersection to all through traffic except for residents.

Ballou said Jackson County Fire District 3 crews are on scene protecting homes that included a “big old ranch” in the area.

Earlier in the afternoon, Ballou said winds were not particularly dynamic as the fire burned dense forest land at the top of the hill “following fuel.”

Windy conditions after 6 p.m., however, caused rapid fire growth.

“We got a really strong wind,” Ballou said. “Turned it into a whole new ball game.”

Six helicopters, three large air tankers and one “very large” air tanker were dousing the flames, as of Thursday.

Two dozers were on scene, and two more on order, according to Ballou.

“We’re planning to go all night,” he said, adding that the crews would be on scene through Friday morning at the earliest.

A cause is under investigation.

Starting at midnight Friday, ODF will increase fire precaution levels to “extreme” on all state, private and county forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties, according to a press release issued by ODF.

Power saws, equipment used for cutting, grinding or welding metal, mowing of dry grass and the use of any spark-emitting equipment are prohibited at all times effective Friday, according to ODF.

The restrictions are atop early fire prevention regulations such as requiring vehicles traveling off state highways and county roads to carry firefighting equipment such as a 2.5 pound or larger fire extinguisher, requiring motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles to carry fire extinguishers, motorized vehicles allowed only on “improved roads free of flammable vegetation,” and campfires allowed only in designated campgrounds.

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune - An air tanker makes a drop Thursday evening fighting a wildfire outside of Eagle Point.
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneA plume can be seen from a fire burning near Eagle Point on Thursday.