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Fires threaten Applegate, Union Creek

Smoke hit unhealthy and very unhealthy levels in Southern Oregon cities on Sunday as area wildfires continue to grow and threaten the Applegate Valley and Union Creek communities.

Air quality stations showed very unhealthy smoke levels in Shady Cove, Klamath Falls and southeast of Grants Pass Sunday afternoon.

While Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass were at unhealthy levels Sunday afternoon, they recorded very unhealthy levels during the previous 24-hour period.

Cave Junction was at unhealthy for sensitive groups, but recorded unhealthy levels during the prior 24 hours.  

For air quality readings updated hourly, visit www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/.

Applegate Valley residents along Kinney Creek Road and Palmer Creek Road were under a Level 3 "leave immediately" evacuation order Saturday due to the Burnt Peak fire. The situation was upgraded to a Level 2 evacuation notice Sunday, meaning residents must be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

Other areas under the Level 2 evacuation notice are:

  • Palmer Creek Road and Kinney Creek Road (Forest Service Road 1090)
  • Both sides of Upper Applegate Road from Palmer Creek Road to the Applegate Dam Spillway, including Bolder City
  • Beaver Creek Road from its junction with Upper Applegate Road east for approximately a mile

Additional areas are under a Level 1 evacuation notice, meaning they should be aware danger exists in the area and should make preparations to evacuate. They are:

  • Carberry Creek Road from Applegate Road up to and including Steamboat Ranch
  • Palmer Creek Road/Applegate Road intersection north to 7449 Applegate Road and Eastside Road from Upper Applegate Road north to 2874 Eastside Road
  • South from Applegate Dam Spillway around all of Applegate Lake (1/8 mile buffer around water to include all private property), including French Gulch
  • The recreation sites Hart-tish, Harr Pt, Watkins, Tipsu Tyee, Latgawa Cove and Stringtown campgrounds and Carberry picnic ground

The Burnt Peak fire is part of the Miller Complex of fires, which has reached 17,965 acres in Oregon and California, according to a Sunday update.

The 3,616-acre Burnt Peak fire is approximately 9 miles southwest of Ruch and 3 miles north of Applegate Lake.

According to the Sunday update, "The Burnt Peak fire has backed down Billy Mountain as expected; one small corner remains to be tied in on the fire’s northeast side. Firefighting traffic has increased in the Upper Applegate Road area as resources continue to protect homes and property. Residents can expect to see flames, and smoke will be prevalent in the valley. The fire has moved slowly through the area and remains a ground fire."

For updated information on the Miller Complex of fires, see inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5514.

Some parts of the Applegate area have limited internet and mobile data service.

Fire information boards are set up at the following locations:

  • Ruch Country Store
  • Ruch Hardware
  • Applegate Fire District #9
  • Star Ranger Station
  • Jackson Campground
  • Bolder City
  • Williams Fire Department
  • Williams General Store
  • Thompson Creek Road near mailboxes adjacent to the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management boundary south of Applegate and at Carberry picnic ground

Also in the Miller Complex, the Creedence Fire and Bigelow (Grayback) fires approximately 7 miles south of Williams were at 2,135 acres, according to the Sunday update.

At lower elevations, thick smoke kept temperatures to about 90 degrees Saturday, lower than the triple-digit temperatures that had been forecast. However, temperatures were in the upper 90s at higher elevations where smoke was thinner, according to the Sunday update.

For the High Cascades complex that includes the 12,734-acre Blanket Creek fire and 6,907-acre Spruce Lake fire near Crater Lake, persistent dense smoke kept helicopters grounded at the Prospect Helibase, according to a Sunday update.

Air operations personnel are working to establish a fueling station near Fort Klamath, where the air has been consistently clearer.

Mazama Village in Crater Lake National Park remains under a Level 1 "be prepared" evacuation notice.

The Union Creek area in Jackson County is also under a Level 1 evacuation notice due to the 4,893-acre Broken Lookout Fire. Crews are working to protect Union Creek from advancing fire by building and strengthening fire lines and conducting burn-outs.

The Broken Lookout and 804-acre Windy Gap fires are the highest priority blazes in the High Cascades complex of a half-dozen fires.

Fire danger remains extreme and smoke in the area has reached unhealthy and hazardous levels for the public and firefighters, and at the Incident Command Post south of Diamond Lake.

For updates on the High Cascades Complex, see inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5503/.

The massive Chetco Bar fire between Cave Junction and Brookings has burned more than 140,000 acres.

While residents in the fire area and Brookings have faced various evacuation notices for weeks, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office issued a Level 1 "be prepared" evacuation notice on Saturday for Oak Flats east of the fire.

To sign up for emergency phone alerts from Josephine County through the reverse 911 system, visit tinyurl.com/Josephine-County-Citizen-Alert.

Extreme fire behavior with torching, fire blazing through tree crowns, ember spotting of up to a half-mile and major fire runs is predicted for the next few days. An excessive heat warning also remains in effect through Monday.

On the Cave Junction side of the Chetco Bar fire, crews re-opened and cleared brush from fire lines used during the Biscuit Fire, which burned nearly 500,000 acres in the area in 2002. Crews assessed homes and buildings and puled burnable material away from structures in the Illinois River Valley and Agness areas, according to a Sunday update.

Heavy smoke is making it difficult for pilots to take to the air to help battle the Chetco Bar fire.

For updates on the Chetco Bar fire, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5385/.

Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

High Cascades Complex fires, 9-3-2017 by Mail Tribune on Scribd

Miller Complex 9-3-2017 by Mail Tribune on Scribd

Chetco Bar fire 9-3-2017 by Mail Tribune on Scribd

Fires threaten Applegate, Union Creek