Hendrix fire prompts evacuations; air quality worsens
The Jackson County Sheriff's Office has issued evacuation notices due to the lightning-sparked Hendrix fire southwest of Ashland that has grown to 550 acres.
The evacuation notices affect 35 addresses near Hells Peak, southeast of Ruch.
Sheriff's Office search-and-rescue teams began going door-to-door Wednesday to advise residents of the evacuations and provide information.
Properties at 16001 Wagner Creek Road and the Wrangle Campground at 23000 Little Applegate Road are under a Level 3 "go" evacuation alert, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Thirty-one addresses in the Dog Fork Community from Little Applegate Road to west of Yale Creek Road are under a Level 2 "be set" evacuation alert. Those addresses are from 3975 to 4075 Dog Fork Road and from 3812 to 6969 Yale Creek Road, the Sheriff's Office said.
Two more properties, 3434 McDonald Creek Road and 16099 Wagner Creek Road are also under Level 2 "be set" evacuation notices. Those properties are along Wagner Creek road south of Wagner Gap to U.S. Forest Service Road 20, the Sheriff's Office said.
No addresses in these evacuation zones have phone numbers or email addresses registered with the Jackson County Emergency Management Citizen Alert program, so no alerts will be sent. To sign up for Citizen Alert, see www.jacksoncounty.org/alert. More information about evacuation levels and preparedness can be found atwww.rvem.org.
Officials will host a Hendrix fire community meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Ruch Community Bible Church, 190 Upper Applegate Road, Jacksonville.
For more information about the Hendrix fire, visit the fire information page on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/rogue-siskiyou/home/?cid=fseprd587783. Public information is also available by phone at 541-632-3567.
The fire, located about three miles southwest of Ashland, is burning on a mix of U.S. Forest Service and private lands, according to fire public information officer Julie Knobel. A column of smoke from the blaze was plainly visible across the Rogue Valley Tuesday afternoon.
There are currently 223 firefighters battling the flames. They must navigate steep and rugged terrain while bolstering containment lines, she said.
"With the extreme weather we had, it picked up," Knobel said.
The fire is burning east of the 2001 Quartz Fire between Glade Creek and the Little Applegate River. Heavy fuel types, steep terrain, high temperatures and poor access are the main challenges. Firefighters and helicopters are actively engaged in suppressing the fire while an Incident Management Team sets up the Incident Command Post at Applegate Fire District No. 9 headquarters and a base camp along Hamilton Road, officials said.
Officials said that resources assigned to the Hendrix Fire include three hotshot crews, five hand crews, six engines, two dozers, five helicopters and five engines for initial attack. Firefighters are suppressing the fire where they can do so safely and effectively to protect values at risk, including industrial timber lands, residential structures and private property.
On Tuesday, fire behavior increased in the afternoon due to the extreme temperatures and gusty winds. The fire made a run to the southeast and crossed Seven Mile Ridge, with spotting across the 620 Road. The north and west flanks are continuing to hold. Aerial resources dropping retardant and water supported suppression efforts, officials said.
Today, firefighters continue to scout, establish and hold control lines and evaluate alternatives to try to secure line and minimize spread east of Seven Mile Ridge and west of Hells Peak, officials said.
Winds from the northwest saw peak gusts of 25 to 27 mph with about 12 mph sustained winds in an area of the Siskiyou Mountains near the fire. But meteorologists clarified those winds were just above the trees, and that down on the forest floor, the wind speeds would be lower.
"Probably down near the ground it's going to be less than that, maybe half of that, especially if it's really heavily wooded," said meteorologist Mike Petrucelli, adding that the next few days will see "very similar conditions."
The majority of the smoke that's drifted into Jackson County is actually from multiple fires burning in northeastern Jackson County and eastern Douglas County, meteorologist Brett Lutz said.
"There's some contribution from the Hendrix fire as well," Lutz said.
The smoke has dealt a blow to much of Jackson County's air quality. Medford and Talent air quality entered the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" category by the afternoon, while Shady Cove levels had plunged to "unhealthy" but later improved to "moderate." Ashland and the Applegate area were in the "moderate" category, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Index.
Grants Pass in Josephine County also has fires in the area, but winds blowing the smoke toward Jackson County kept the Grants Pass area in the "good" category into the afternoon, according to DEQ.
The immediate area near the Hendrix Fire is expected to see a high temperature in the 80s today and Thursday, dropping to a high of anywhere from 75 to 80 degrees Saturday, Lutz said.
Officials are warning the general public to be aware of an increase in firefighter traffic along the Applegate and Little Applegate Roads. Increased dust will limit visibility on dirt roads.
Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters continue to work on containing additional lightning-sparked fires across the two-county area it covers. The 250-acre Wagner Creek Complex, which comprises all 75 fires on ODF-protected lands in Jackson County, is 30 percent contained, according to ODF public information officer Melissa Cano.
The 700-acre Garner Creek Complex, composed of 12 fires across Josephine County, is listed at 2 percent containment, according to a news release.