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Smoke expected to clear out Monday afternoon

Weather officials are predicting the smoke to quit the Rogue Valley, at least for a few days, thanks to northwesterly winds expected Monday afternoon.

Smoke coming off the Happy Camp Complex fires settled in the valley over the weekend, reducing visibility to about three miles on Saturday, said Tom Wright, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford.

On Sunday, visibility increased to about 10 miles, before dropping to six miles Sunday evening.

“(Monday morning) will be a little less favorable, but then the winds will be coming from the northwest and push it all out of here,” Wright said. “In the late afternoon or early evening, we’ll start to see that shift.”

The smoke will still be visible but not as thick, Wright added.

However, the smoke may creep back in when the winds may become “more southerly” late in the week, Wright said.

As of Sunday afternoon, the Happy Camp Complex fires had burned through a total of 96,869 acres. About 2,637 firefighters are currently working to put out the fires, which are about 30 percent contained, said Joshua Veal, a public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

Veal said the total cost of the fire, which started Aug. 12, is now at $57.6 million.

Meanwhile, 692 firefighters are battling the 790 fire southeast of Prospect in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the fire was 2,950 acres and 30 percent contained, according to Howard Hunter, a public information officer assigned to the fire.

“We had helicopters and planes running all day Sunday,” Hunter said. “The retardant we laid on the south side of the fire above Wickiup Drainage successfully held it. We have firefighters heading out Monday to establish spike camps and to begin building direct fire line along that south flank.”

Hunter said the next few days are supposed to bring more favorable weather conditions, allowing firefighters to make more progress.

Reach reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.