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Oregon Gulch fire 30 percent contained

The Oregon Gulch fire continues to burn across parts of Southern Oregon and Northern California, but officials said there is fire line around the entire perimeter.

The lightning-sparked fire, which is considered part of the Beaver Complex, was 30 percent contained and had held at 36,568 acres Tuesday afternoon. It popped up the evening of July 30 in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and found a vicious momentum, at one point growing about 1,000 acres per hour through Oregon and California wildlands. Six homes have been destroyed by the flames, and 270 homes and 50 outbuildings are still at risk, fire officials said.

The National Weather Service reported some rain fell over parts of the fire overnight Monday — as much as one-quarter of an inch in some spots, according to radar data. Oregon Gulch fire spokeswoman Linda Bevard said crews didn't see much precipitation, but that the cloud cover and cooler weather aided in firefighting efforts overall Tuesday.

Firefighters are "very hopeful," she said.

Level 3 evacuations have been lowered to a Level 2 — in which residents are advised to be set to leave at a moment's notice — for the 6000 block of Copco Road south to the Oregon border and the Klamath River Canyon from the John C. Boyle Dam to the California border. This includes Topsy Grade and Picard roads, and all other roads typically accessible south of Highway 66 and east to the Klamath County line. A low-level evacuation warning remains in place for Highway 66 residents from the Greensprings Fire Station to the highway's 2000 block. Copco Road's junction with Highway 66 remains closed to public traffic.

Weather officials recorded 780 new air-to-ground lightning strikes in Jackson and Klamath counties Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Only seven of those strikes touched down in Jackson County. One strike did ignite a new fire on Parker Mountain, located east of the monument. It grew to 5 acres, but fire crews contained and controlled it.

"It's not going to be a concern. They got on that immediately," Bevard said.

A red-flag warning was in effect from 1 to 11 p.m. Tuesday for the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon Cascades, Fremont-Winema National Forest and parts of Siskiyou and Modoc counties because of predicted high winds and scattered thunderstorm activity.

Officials are warning the Oregon Gulch fire could grow if it jumps the Klamath River into the Secret Springs area of Siskiyou County, where direct access for battling the flames is limited.

The Beaver Complex's Salt Creek fire, burning north of Gold Hill off the east fork of East Evans Creek, is at 87 percent containment and has not exceeded 155 acres. Crews intend to continue moving into the interior and mopping up today.

The Oregon Gulch and Salt Creek fires have cost the Oregon Department of Forestry more than $6.1 million and CAL FIRE about $750,000 to fight, according to the Incident Information System website.

There are currently 1,573 personnel working on the Beaver Complex, supported by 51 engines, 25 dozers and 22 water tenders for the Oregon wildlands. They are supported by 14 helicopters and two air tankers.

Firefighters also continued to fight a slew of small fires on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lands Tuesday. The largest cluster, coined the Camp Creek Complex, is located in the High Cascades Ranger District. The largest fire in that complex, Fire 790, remains at about 300 acres in size and has no containment yet.

Mop-up continued on the 50-acre Cluster fire, 40-acre Fire 672, and 15-acre Bailey fire. Crews continued to draw firelines around the five-fire Smith Rock Cluster, north of Smith Rock, and on Fire 668, another 5-acre blaze burning on Mount McLoughlin's north slope.

The remaining nine fires in the High Cascades Ranger District make up the Bitter Complex. Of that number, four are fully contained.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.