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Changing winds saved Pinehurst Inn from Oregon Gulch fire

Denise Rowlett was ready to go Thursday afternoon.

The Pinehurst Inn's co-owner of six years had necessities packed. She was set to run out the door in case a Level 1 evacuation order worsened to Level 3 — get out now — because of the Oregon Gulch wildfire.

But luckily for Rowlett and the historic inn, the winds changed. The lightning-sparked fire raced away from her establishment, the flames billowing back toward the southeast in a refueled sprint.

"Relief is probably an understatement," Rowlett said. "This is my business. This is my home, and I would hate to see anything happen.

"You can only do so much. That's my philosophy. You can only do so much, and then you pray."

The inn, located off Highway 66, is open for business, with just some leftover smoke left lingering along the ground. The fire continues to burn southeast, tearing through dry grass and forestlands. Overnight, the flames bathed the hillsides in an orange glow.

"It looked like I was looking at San Francisco," Rowlett said.

The fire, which roared to life in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, had grown to 7,500 acres by late this morning and continues its move into Klamath County and well into Northern California. The flames have apparently leveled several structures, but no deaths or injuries have been reported.

Rowlett's husband, Donald, is on the front lines as a volunteer firefighter. She's received multiple text message notifications that he is OK. On Thursday, she sent out a round of food and water to him and others.

Rowlett was surprised at how quickly the fire moved, but not at the spread itself. She said numerous untouched slash piles in the surrounding forests make for easy fuel.

"This is not a great mystery," she said.

— Ryan Pfeil