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Almeda fire 100% contained

The Almeda fire is fully contained, fire officials said Tuesday.

The welcome news came a week after the fire roared to life in Ashland and cut a trail of destruction through Talent and Phoenix, forcing thousands to evacuate.

Wind gusts that reached 45 mph propelled the flames across a parched landscape that has not seen a drop of measurable rain in about three months, torching the corridor that carries Bear Creek, Interstate 5 and Highway 99.

Firefighters and utility crews will continue to work inside the fire lines, navigating debris, unstable structures, downed utility lines and venting gas lines. Residents are asked to stay clear of evacuation zones as work continues.

News of full containment came with a fresh round of downgraded evacuation notices. Areas at the southern end of the fire zone east and north of Valley View Road off exit 19 have been reduced from Level 3 “go” to Level 2 “get set,” according to the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center.

Areas at the north end of the fire zone, just south of South Stage Road and Highway 99 have also been reduced to Level 2, though access will be limited to residents of Town and Country Estates and the Glenwood Mobile Home Park who have permits.

The southern closure area on Highway 99 is being moved northward from the highway’s intersection with South Valley View Road to Talent Avenue, allowing for better access into Talent and Phoenix neighborhoods.

A map of up-to-date evacuation notices across Jackson County can be viewed online at jacksoncounty.org/evacuation.

The South Obenchain fire, which sparked near Eagle Point the same day as the Almeda fire, is 20% contained and was at 32,031 acres Tuesday, according to InciWeb, a federal wildfire information website. The fire, which recently saw a push to the east, has started to push south.

The next few days of weather should continue to aid fire crews. Rogue Valley temperatures aren’t expected to exceed the high-70s mark through Friday, according to the National Weather Service. There’s a chance of rain in the forecast for parts of the region Thursday night and Friday, forecasters said.

Smoke continues to foul the air, though Jackson and Josephine counties saw some slight improvements Tuesday. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality data showed Medford and Ashland air had gone from “hazardous” to “very unhealthy.” Grants Pass and Cave Junction had improved to “unhealthy.” Shady Cove data was not immediately available.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory for the area through Thursday because the harmful smoke can affect the heart and lungs and exacerbate chronic health conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

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

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