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Garner Complex fires near 20,000 acres

Despite hot, dry conditions, wildland fire crews wrangled 18 percent containment in the Garner Complex, which reached 19,944 acres Wednesday, fire officials said.

The complex declared a conflagration by the governor last week comprises fires started by lightning on July 15 in northwest Jackson County and portions of Josephine and Douglas counties. It had grown by 2,575 acres in the past 24 hours, but some of that was intentional, according to a release issued by the Incident Fire Management team.

Fires set within control lines to clear out fuels before they can threaten structures will create smoke and flames visible at night, the team said.

Control lines are holding in a remote area of northwestern Jackson County, allowing reduced evacuation levels for addresses on the Graves Creek Road north of Ditch Creek. They were downgraded from Level 3 “Go” to Level 2 “Be Set” Wednesday afternoon, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Crews are battling “near-critical” hot and dry fire conditions with slope-driven winds traveling between 5 and 10 mph in the afternoons, according to an Inciweb update. Smoke is anticipated to dissipate near the fire in the next day, bringing hotter temperatures and a chance of thunderstorms.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,432 personnel are working the fire, including 74 hand crews, 112 engines, 35 dozers, 47 water tenders, 27 aircraft and 9 structure task forces.

No structures have been damaged in the fire, although 1,336 remain threatened.

An emergency shelter remains open at Grants Pass High School, and has served more than 300 meals to people evacuated in the wildfire, according to an American Red Cross release midday Wednesday.

Natchez fire

The Natchez fire burning southeast of Selma and Cave Junction is currently at 9,100 acres, according to a joint release issued Wednesday afternoon by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and National Incident Management Team 3.

Burnout operations are planned east and north of the fire, and crews are working to reopen Road 60, which will be used as a containment line. A second fire camp is being established in Happy Camp, California, to reduce drive times for firefighters.

Personnel battling the flames total 657, including 16 crews, five helicopters, 38 engines, 14 water tenders, 11 dozers and two masticators.

Sugar Pine complex

The complex of 19 fires burning near Prospect east and west of Highway 62 is at 1,233 acres and is zero percent contained, according to Inciweb.

Crews are working to identify and access fire perimeters, and develop containment strategies, according to Inciweb.

An inversion layer of smoke is beginning to lift as winds change, making more fires in the area possible.

South Umpqua complex

The fire is at 6,842 acres and 12 percent contained as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Inciweb.

The 1,143 personnel battling the fire in rural Douglas County near Tiller worked to build momentum on gains made Tuesday, but faced strong northeasterly winds that cast sparks as tall trees burned “to their very tops,” fire officials said.

Resources included 37 crews, 33 engines, nine dozers, 18 tenders and aircraft consisting of two Type 1 heavy helicopters, one Type 2 medium helicopter and two Type 3 light helicopters.

Timber Crater 6 fire

The fire burning on a northeast corner of Crater Lake National Park is 2,355 acres and 35 percent contained as of Tuesday morning.

Meteorologists are continuing to monitor cloud buildup in the area for possible thunderstorms.

Shifting winds from west to northwest are expected Thursday, bringing drier humidity levels into the area. There are 693 personnel working the fire.

Hendrix fire

The fire burning near Ruch is at 1,081 acres and 40 percent contained, according to a joint press release issued by Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

On Tuesday night, fire officials said they had “turned a corner” on the fire, strengthening containment lines that appeared to hold.

Homes near Hells Peak, southeast of Ruch, remain on Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation levels, according to fire officials, and drivers near the intersection of Upper Applegate and Little Applegate roads should watch for fire vehicles in the area.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Aerial view of Garner fire.