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Wildfire near Applegate Lake 90% lined

The Collings Mountain fire burns in steep, remote terrain near Applegate Lake overnight Wednesday. About 81 personnel worked to mopup the seven-acre fire Thursday. [ODF Southwest Oregon photo]

Oregon Department of Forestry crews worked overnight to wrangle a wildfire that broke out Wednesday afternoon in steep terrain near Applegate Lake.

The Collings Mountain fire — spotted at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday by ODF Southwest Oregon District fire detection staff — was reported Thursday morning to be 90% lined and contained at seven acres, according to ODF spokeswoman Natalie Weber.

Crews from Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and ODF arrived to find the fire burning on private land on a roughly 80%-90% grade slope, and about a mile from the nearest road.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Because of the difficulty of the location, crews ordered a type 2 initial attack helicopter to drop buckets of water while crews hiked to the remote area through heavy timber and over rocky ground.

Crews initially ordered bulldozers, but large boulders in the way meant that crews largely dug the fire line by hand in the fire’s first 15 hours.

“It’s incredibly steep terrain; it’s rocky — there were actually boulders being dislodged falling down as they worked,” Weber said.

With the bulk of the fire lined, crews shifted to mop-up efforts overnight. On Thursday, 81 people were assigned to the fire, including three 20-person hand crews, one type 3 fire engine, three type 6 engines, four water tenders and a tree faller.

Firefighter safety is a priority, according to Weber, because the steep slope remains a challenge, and there’s a significant risk of hazard trees and rolling boulders.

“They all have their heads on a swivel for the next things that could be falling on them,” Weber said.

Weber said people nearby should expect to see smoke, especially Thursday afternoon, and some wind is expected. Weber cautioned that fire behavior can change in the heat of the day.