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Sams Valley fire lines holding

Fire lines surrounding the East Evans fire in Sams Valley continue to hold the blaze at the estimated 300-meter mark, but officials said Sunday that they’re sticking to a 0% containment estimate for now.

The fire, located on a mix of Bureau of Land Management and private lands, roared to life Friday. It initially saw a rapid, wind-fueled growth to about 300 acres. The Oregon Department of Forestry was able to gain the upper hand quickly, thanks to a ferocious air attack that included water bucket and retardant drops from multiple helicopters and air tankers.

“It was just taking off and spotting everywhere, and so it was growing very quickly,” ODF public information officer Natalie Weber said. “The fact that we were able to utilize so many aircraft for 5 or 6 hours initially really helped. We were able to get a complete around the fire in retardant. And so when crews were able to get in after that, they just started to build on what was already dropped.”

A firefighter was injured in the initial firefight and was airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. Details on how the injury happened were not immediately available Sunday. A structure has also been destroyed. Whether the fire began there before spreading to nearby wildlands is under investigation.

Weather-related challenges for southwest Oregon will persist, National Weather Service officials said, with a slight chance for thunderstorms in and around the Crater Lake area Monday. That follows Sunday’s severe thunderstorm warning in southern Jackson County, and at least three lightning-sparked fires that were spotted near Little Applegate Road Sunday evening.

“It’s on our radar, and we’re prepared,” Weber said.

Mop up operations on the fire will continue overnight into Monday.

A key next step for crews is cutting down dead and hazardous trees that pose a significant risk to firefighters. Firefighters will also continue to monitor the area for spot fires that could be spurred by winds.

More than 200 personnel remain on the fire, including 10 20-person hand crews, and four 10-person crews. Apparatus include 10 engines, two bulldozers, eight water tenders and five tree fallers.

Level 3 “go” evacuation notifications remain in effect for 11 homes on East Evans Creek Road (18721 to 18998), with level 1 “get ready” notifications still in effect for 18 other homes (18818-20252), according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. The road remains closed to traffic between May Creek and Meadow roads.

The fire’s cause remains under investigation.

Fire updates

In the Applegate Valley, ODF crews also continued to make progress toward full containment on the 70-acre Panther Gulch fire near Williams, which firefighters have been fighting since July 30. It was 90% contained Sunday.

“Crews are just continuing to mop up and put out any hot spots that are there,” Weber said.

Firefighters also continue to roll along toward full containment on the Milepost 97 fire, first reported burning near Canyonville since July 24. On Sunday the 13,119-acre fire was 50% contained.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.